Tuesday, February 02, 2010

The runic stones of Sigtuna

Sigtuna is the oldest, still populated settlement in Sweden. The long dramatic history spans over 1000 years, and has left a rich heritage of historic monuments. Some of the most interesting are the great number inscriptions on stones written in the old Norse Runic alphabet. Here a a few stones found in the centre of the town.

Stone by St. Lars Church Ruin

Translated text: Anund erected this stone in menory of himself, while still alive.

This stone was found by the north east corner of St. Lars Church Ruin in 1956, where it had been laid down as a corner stone of an old wall.

This means that the stone had been placed into the church wall around 50 years after the constructed in the middle of the 11th century. The stone, predating this old church, may be at least 1000 years old.

This stone may be a result of vanity, as Anund erected it in memory of himself, wile still being alive. A very human trait, bringing the voice of an individual to us through history.

Runic stone from St. Pers Church ruin (11th century)

Original inscription: T(horbiorn r)æsti (s)tæin thennsi æftir Æsbiorn, brodur sinn. Their eru synir dyrvis i(........)

Translated: Torbriørn erected this stone in memory of Esbjørn, his brother. They are sons of Dyrvis at (.......)

This runic stone dates back at least 900 years. It was mentioned in historic records first in 1612, as stone threshold at St. Pers Church. Some of the inscription was lost, when adjusted to the adjacent stones in the church floor.

It was drawn and the registered over 300 years ago. The text in the brackets refers to the text visible when it was registered for the first time in the 17th century.

Fragment of three rune stones from Mariakyrkan (11th century)

Deciphered text:
  • Rune-stone 1: ......Åsbjørn and kus did......
  • Rune-stone 2: .....God help the spirit.......
  • Rune-stone 3: ........after Orm.......
The Church dedicated to Saint Mary, is the only Medieval church still standing in Sigtuna. Here you find three rune stones with inscriptions.

Stone number 1 is located by the main entrance of the church, number 2 is a part of the eastern wall of the Gernerska Mausoleum by the church, whereas number three is found on the mausoleum's northern wall.

Runic stone (11th century)

Translated text: Gillug and Usi had this stone erected in memory of ...... Arne's son...

This stone commemorates son of Arne, and was erected by a man, Gillug and usi, possibly a man's name, maybe her husband? It was found in a cellar wall of a building close to St. Lars Church ruin.

We do not know exact location of this stone, and it is now standing by a building in one of the city streets.

146 rune stones are found within Sigtuna town

These are just four out of 146 runic inscriptions found within the city borders of the town of Sigtuna. They are some of the earliest written messages left by the Vikings to be read by us, and stones like these mark the start of the written history of the Scandinavian countries.

The runic alphabet was not unique for the Scandinavian countries. The oldest date back to 150 AD, but they are in use as a parallel set of letters to the Latin from the 6th century. In Scandinavia they were in use from the 8-9th century to the 15th century.

More on Sigtuna

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