Kings, queens and jesters: step again in time at Gotland’s Medieval Week

As I peer by means of the arched window of the 13th century Helge Ands church ruins (Holy Ghost) a voice from inside welcomes me in.

The present will start in an hour, and Violina Juliusdotter, wearing a medieval robe, is tuning her tagelharpa, the strings and bow of that are manufactured from hair from a horse’s tail.

Almost all devices in her basket are handmade, utilizing wooden, pores and skin, hair and bones. In an age of hi-tech, complicated sound programs these come throughout throughout as easy, and even primitive, relying the way you view them. But that’s precisely the purpose. We are right here for Medieval Week, a pageant celebrated yearly on the Baltic Sea island of Gotland, and these are impressed from forgotten devices of the Middle Ages.

“I constructed this myself in 1995,” she says, exhibiting me a flute that also seems like a bone.

Violina Juliusdotter on stage contained in the Helge Ands church ruins. Photo: Rupali Mehra/The Local

“They have discovered flutes manufactured from bone which are older than this constructing,” Juliusdotter says as she breaks right into a tune. The acoustics contained in the octagonal ruins are enchanting, and the benches quickly begin to refill with folks, younger and previous. It’s an impromptu session, and her mates and different musicians she has by no means met will quickly take part because the live performance begins.

“I prefer to sing songs with many verses, and that is the one place the place I can sing a music with 52 verses and folks will keep and pay attention. That is why I like enjoying right here. We are going to take some medieval tunes and previous Swedish lyrics, with previous folks songs known as medieval ballads and we’re going to sing them collectively. I’m additionally going to indicate the viewers these medieval devices and inform them extra about it,” she provides.

Watch the video:

Now in its 34th 12 months, Gotland’s Medieval Week brings collectively about 40,000 folks to Visby. Ringed by a 13th century stone wall and dotted by ruins that date again to medieval occasions, the world heritage city offers the right setting.

At Almedalen park, which hugs the western wall of the internal metropolis, a bunch of musicians are practising for a efficiency. Nearby, over 100 males, ladies and kids are being taught a bunch dance. “Stallions to the fitting and the women to the left,” says their teacher Thomas, dressed as a nobleman in ink blue.

“We have been doing this dance exercise for over 20 years. It began with the native society that needed to bounce for their very own amusement, after which it grew and grew. Now we get greater than 100 folks a day that come to bounce these medieval dances. Different teams from throughout Sweden and different nations come to this week,” he explains throughout a brief break in between the classes.

Preparation for Medeltidsveckan, as its recognized in Swedish, started early. “Some of us begin planning concerning the subsequent 12 months on the boat dwelling. So that may be a full 12 months of planning,” he says.

Just one other day on the Medieval Week in Visby. Photo: Rupali Mehra/The Local

Men in tights and tunics, and ladies carrying lengthy robes and hoods are all over the place; on bicycles, on their cellphones, at eating places and on the grocery store pushing trolleys. It’s surreal; ludicrous and endearing on the identical time. Role play is necessary right here, and you may be nearly anybody, a peasant, a knight, a jester or a nobleman, so long as you’re medieval.

Most folks select to remain in tents within the medieval camp close by for an actual expertise.

“Normally when it’s not this sizzling and dry, you may make an open hearth and cook dinner your personal meals, like folks did up to now. It is cool to reside in,” says Johan from Stockholm, who has been attending Medieval Week together with his dad and mom and brother Anders since he was a baby.

“We’ve all the time been focused on historical past and our dad and mom too. It may be very attention-grabbing to recreate and relive like our ancestors,” he provides.

A gaggle of mates on the Medieval Week. Photo: Rupali Mehra/TheLocal

Away from the busy market, Sebastian Benson, a programmer by career, is giving the ending touches to his struthätta, or a liripipe hood. “In the primary 12 months I borrowed every little thing. Then I added increasingly stuff alone,” he says, exhibiting what the hood seems like (watch the video above).

His good friend David, who has a coif on to cowl a contemporary haircut, exhibits the intricate sample he has chain-stitched on his coat.

“The preparation runs nearly the entire 12 months, as a result of we wish to sew this or make that, make a brand new hat or new footwear. In February we resolve who’s coming, who we wish to stick with. We then purchase the tickets for the ferry right here and the tickets for the medieval camp. So you already know by February if you will the Medieval Week or not. But as I’ve been coming right here for ten years now, there may be not likely an possibility to not come,” says David, who’s finding out synthetic intelligence.

The distinction couldn’t be extra stark.

“There is one thing very calming about utilizing your fingers to do one thing. We do not want to do that in our on a regular basis life as a result of we are able to purchase something and order issues on the web. But right here, I put my soul into this (garment) and I actually made this with love” says Jane, from Gothenburg as she makes buttons from fabric for her robe.

“I feel as a result of we’re so tech heavy, you actually need to flee from all of that,” she provides.

Perhaps that’s what attracts hundreds of individuals again in time yearly.

Rupali Mehra moved to Sweden from India in 2017. She is a former tv anchor & editor and now runs a communications consultancy. She could be reached at

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