Historic Papal Seal Helps Locate Legendary Medieval Assembly in Sweden
06:22 GMT 15.02.2022 (Updated: 20:16 GMT 19.10.2022)
The Baltic island of Gotland is Sweden's largest and is famed for its seafarers, commerce, and strong local identity, as well as a long tradition of medieval self-rule, when elected "lawspeakers" gathered to decide on new laws. The location of the assembly, or Thing, has long been a mystery to researchers.
A important medieval find, a papal bull seal from the year 1334, has been made in the village of Roma on the Swedish island of Gotland.
The seal, which is about 4 centimetres long and made of lead, had been attached to a letter from Pope John XXII. On one side of the seal, the apostles Paul and Peter are depicted, with the name of the pope on the other. The seal is broken in half, probably from when the letter was opened, national broadcaster SVT reported
Pope John XXII is known to have sent a letter to Gotland on 28 April 1334, in which he let the Gotlanders avoid going to the mainland during the winter to testify in court. It showed the support they enjoyed from the pope who was a power factor in Europe. It is very likely that this seal was attached to that very letter.
"These are small finds of great importance. It is only the ninth papal bull seal that has been found in Sweden, so it is very unusual. Furthermore, it shows the importance of Gotland, even during the Middle Ages", archaeologist Majvor Östergren, who leads the Roma project, told the newspaper Dagens Nyheter.
The Roma project is run by the Gotland Museum in collaboration with the universities of Stockholm and Uppsala. One of the goals of the project is to find the Gotland Thing, a governing assembly or folkmoot, in which elected "lawspeakers" gathered from the entire island and made laws and dispensed justice until the 17th century. Majvor Östergren now believes the place has been found.
"These objects give us a lot of information about what has been here and we think it was the place. Papal letters were only sent to the top management and this can confirm that Gotland's political centre at the time was in Roma", Östergren mused.
At present, archaeologists are looking for additional funding to complete their research and admittedly are "chasing sponsors".
Gotland is Sweden's largest island located in the Baltic Sea. With a population of some 59,000, it forms a province of its own with Visby being the local capital. Known as a major commercial centre from the Viking Age
onwards, Visby became one of the key Hanseatic League cities in the Baltic Sea. Gotlanders, known historically as Gutes, are one of the progenitor groups of modern Swedes and retain a distinct local identity and strong dialect.
In 1164, Sweden became an ecclesiastical province of the Catholic Church and Catholicism became firmly established. Sweden even contributed its fair share of saints, with Saint Bridget being the most famous. Under the banner of the Catholic Church Swedes even participated in their own versions of the crusades and launched a plethora of expeditions to Christianise Finland and the Baltic states. In the 1500s, though, the country switched to Protestantism and became a bastion of Lutheranism.