If you want to use this site please update your browser!

Visby Cathedral

Visby Cathedral  is a cathedral in Visby in Sweden. Belonging to Visby Cathedral Parish of the Church of Sweden, it serves the Diocese of Visby. and was inaugurated on 27 July 1225.

The Visby Cathedral was built as a church for German traders in Visby. It was financed by a fee that every German merchant coming to Visby had to pay. Construction began in the late 12th century and the church was probably completed around 1190. The restoration of the church seems to have already started in 1211, and in 1225 a new choir was opened. Initially, the church was probably only used by visiting Germans, but as some of them were permanent residents of Visby, it became a church for both local and visiting German traders, and eventually for the natives of Gotland. Therefore, when it was consecrated by the Bishop of Linchoping in 1225, it was declared a church for two congregations, each of which had its own priest: one for visitors and the other for natives. It became one of the most important churches in the city, and by the late Middle Ages it was the second largest church in Visby. Today it is the only medieval church in Visby that is still in use, while twelve other churches in the city have survived only as ruins.

After the Reformation, the church was transformed into the parish church of Visby. All other churches were abandoned. In 1572, shortly after the Reformation, Gotland was transformed into its own diocese and the church received the status of a cathedral.

The first church was probably a three-aisled basilica with a large, only western tower decorated with galleries. Its transept stretched beyond the main building to the north and south. Unusually, it had no chorus protruding eastward, so it was almost T-shaped, perhaps excluding the central apse or smaller apse protruding from the transept. Stylistically, this first church was similar to the Romanesque churches of Westphalia and the Rhine Valley. However, some details seem unique. Among them is the location of the tower gallery. This, in turn, inspired many more churches in Gotland, providing a fairly clear architectural style.

Visby Cathedral

From this first structure, the gables of the transept, the single portal, the tower to the top bracket and some columns have been preserved. As noted above, the eastern part of the church was rebuilt in the early 13th century. The transsept was doubled, a new choir was added to the east of it, and two towers were built at an angle between the choir and the transsept. During this construction period a new southern portal was molded, still in Romanesque style. A few years later, a new reconstruction scheme began. Now the nave was enlarged and became as wide as the transept, which turned the church from a basilica into an entrance hall. Again, the models can be traced back to western Germany. Excess space between the ceiling and the roof was turned into a very large attic. In the easternmost vault of the church, which forms the ceiling of the choir, there's a round hole. Scientists believe that this opening was used during the establishment of the story of the Passion of Christ to lift a wooden statue of Christ to illustrate his very concrete ascension to heaven.

After another break, this time around a hundred years, a large, pronounced Gothic chapel was added to the south facade. A smaller, no less Gothic chapel was added to the church. One of these chapels, dedicated to Catherine of Alexandria, was paid for by the sons of Mayor Hermann Swerling, executed for treason in 1342. The papal permission to build the chapel dates back to 1349.

Scholars disagree on which chapel was paid for by the sons of Hermann Swerling. The largest of these chapels was the first high Gothic building to be built in Gotland.

Little has changed since the late Middle Ages. Most of it is due to the fact that the cathedral was repeatedly exposed to fires. The roofs or spires of the towers are dated 1746 (west tower) and 1761 (east tower) years, respectively. One of the two medieval chapels was rebuilt from the outside in 1761, replacing the Gothic gables with Baroque ones. However, they were removed in 1899-1901, when the building was restored in several Gothic styles by Axel Haig (Swedish: Axel Hermann Haig). Hegg or Haig was born in Gotland (Kattamra Manor), but lived in England during the restoration. As a result, some of the reconstructions, in particular the new sacristy, are made in the typical English Gothic Revival style.

The Cathedral was restored in the 1980s.

Visby Cathedral