Hanseatic Town of Visby (1995)
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Visby, on the west coast of Gotland, is one of the most popular destinations for summer tourism. But it is also a remarkable combination of an idyllic, hundred-year-old small town and a big medieval town.
|| It is a typical Hanseatic
town with a ring-wall, a well-preserved street grid, and buildings from the
Middle Ages onwards.
Medieval church ruins and warehouses blend with the low houses of wood and stone from later periods.
In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries Gotlandic trade and shipping played a major part in the Baltic area. As a centre of international trade and culture with a strong German element, Visby became an important town.
A wall of limestone was built to enclose the town. Visby ring-wall is 3.6 kilometres long and is the best-preserved in Northern Europe. It was constructed in the thirteenth century, as were most of the 17 medieval churches and a large number of dwelling houses. The big churches were erected by different monastic orders, which also built a school and a House of the Holy Spirit for the poor, sick, and travellers.
When the Hanseatic League acquired a firm organization in the mid-fourteenth century, Visby was given the leadership of the north-eastern towns.
The Hansa was a political and commercial league of German merchants and towns in the North Sea and Baltic area. Visby played a central role in Gotlandic-German trade in Novgorod and was also the starting point for German crusades against Latvia.
The conditions for Baltic trade gradually changed and Visby declined in importance. Towards the end of the fourteenth century, Sweden, Denmark, and Mecklenburg all laid claim to the town, with varying success.
Not only a Hanseatic town, Visby was also the starting point for the Swedish Vikings to explore Russia.
Sweden 1990. Set of eight se-tenant stamps, of which the four in the center are of a composite design. Booklet pane, engraved by Czeslaw Slania.
To Miklagård. [Miklagård is the old Nordic name for Constantinople]. Carved Viking Head and moulded Dragon's Head.
Out to Sea.
Religious symbols of the Vikings.
At the helm.
Visby's gradual but general decline in the subsequent centuries led to the decay of its buildings. At the same time, it meant that church ruins, the ring-wall, and merchants' houses were spared active demolition. At the start of the nineteenth century there was a growing interest, chiefly among authors and artists, in Visby as a historical monument. At the same time, cultural and economic life in Visby developed. The town expanded outside the wall, with new homes, small industries, railway installations and military barracks. In the mid-nineteenth century the first tourism began, and by 1900 it was a firmly established industry.
Other World Heritage Sites in Sweden (on this website). Please refer to the UNESCO-listing, Sweden section, for further information about the individual properties.
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Revised 21 jul 2006