The Churches of Gotland

VÄSTERGARN

Paviken was an important ancient harbour some kilometres to the north of Västergarn. I was a lagoon which one could reach by rowing the shallow-draught ships up the river flowing into the sea at Västergarn. At the end of the Viking epoch this fairway was beginning to get silted up, and the harbour was moved to the shore at Västergarn, where the conditions were not so good as in the Pavik. In the Middle Ages, however, there must have been a market-place. Beside the present church lie the fundaments of an apsidial church from the 12th century and the remains of a round "castal". This stronghold was fitted into a semicircular defensive work of earth and stone, approximately 1 km long open to the sea. Previously this was supposed to be the remains of the ancient town of Gotland, but now we know for sure that this harbour from the first millennium was the Pavik; there are sufficient archeological finds to prove that. These are, on the contrary, very sparse at Västergarn and go to show that it must be a medieval establishment. Thus, for instance, it appears that the castal is older than the defensive wall, the building of which must have begun about 1200; perhaps it was never finished. Västergarn must have had its time as a prospering market-place of a seasonal character in the 12th century. Everything seems to have come to a stand-still in the first part of the 13th century. Of the stately planned new church only the choir was finished; it now appears as a little chapel in a fishing village. The competition with the rising Visby was too keen. The fittings in the church are principally from the 17th century with an altar piece from 1641. The baptismal font is a rare for Gotland, dated 1592.

Photo Hans Hemlin

Text Dr. Bengt G Söderberg


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