Stonehouse from Linkoeping in wintertime

Viking and Medieval Linköping in Östra Götaland

Although founded as the seat of a bishop in the 11th century, it took more than 150 years before the small town of Linköping began to look like a proper city.

Linköping is first mentioned as a diocese in 1104 in a document, which lists the cathedrals and bishops in the whole of Scandinavia. It is spelled “Liunga.Kauping” which probably means the emporium or marketplace on the heath (liunga means heather).

River Ford and Thing

Runic Stone from Linkoeping Oeg 113
Runic Stone from c. 1020 – 1080. Linköping/Östergötland no. 113:
Värun lät resa denna sten efter Bove, sin son, och efter Åsgärd, sin dotter. Gud hjälpe deras själ
: uerun : let : resa : sten : þena : eftiʀ : bofa : sun : sin : aouk : eftiʀ : eskerþi : totur sina kuþ : hiulbi : seol : þeʀa

However, archaeological excavations have shown that Linköping was not the first settlement located at the important crossroad, which runs across the fertile lowland between Bråviken, the firth at Nörköping, and Mottala at the lakeside near Vättern. Between Mottala and Nörköping runs the river Mottala ström. To the north is a landscape of forests. Along the river and lake-system watermills and fishing weirs were built from at least the 12th century. To the south of the river and the lakes, which it connects, lies a fertile valley. It is through this landscape the main traffic passed. Later known as Eriksgatan, it became the old ceremonial road leading from Uppsala trough Östergötland and around Vättern. Along this road, the Swedish kings had to progress after election in order to be acknowledged as kings.


One key location along this road was the ford across Stångån, a tributary to Mottala, located at Nykvarn to the north east of present day Linköping. Here on the east side, the remains of a Viking burial ground and at least five burial mounds have been found, probably from migration and Vendel period. Several rune stones dated to the beginning of the 11th century have also been found here. It is probable that they were once erected as markers along the old road or street near the ford, where there probably was a bridge. One stone has been re-erected on a mound, which has not met with the total destruction of the others; another can be seen in front of the museum of Östergötland.

Eriksgatan - the old ceremonial road through the centre of Medieval Sweden
Eriksgatan – the old ceremonial road through the centre of Medieval Sweden

From the 14th century the sources mention a royal manor, Stång, nearby. Not far from there a Runic stone was found in 1950, which recalls Vigfast, who “died in England” some time around the conquest in 1016 by Sweyn Forkbeard and his son Cnut the Great.

To the west of the ford of the river was a village, Karaby, which was swallowed up by the city of Linköping in the 16th century. Maps from the 17th century show the outline of an open space of square, which is believed to be where the old thing met, the Liunga Ting (literally the Heather Thing). Today, the railtroad runs through.

The Diocese of Linköping

Linkoepings oldest church c 1100. Source: wikipedia
Linköping’s oldest church c 1100. Source: pinterest

Where there is a thing, there would often also be a market. It is evident that Linköping grew out of such a market some time in the beginning of the 11th century. We know that Linköping functioned as a seat for a bishop from ca. 1080 and we also know that two wooden churches were built around the same time, St. Laurentius to the east and the later cathedral to the west. During the 13th century the building of the present stone cathedral was initiated, while an impressive residence for the bishops was erected immediately to the west of this, variously dated between 1150 – 1200.

Linköping's Castle at the time of Hans Brask, c. 1500. Source: Pinterest
Linköping’s Castle at the time of Hans Brask, c. 1500. Source: Pinterest

Nevertheless, the town itself did not take form as fully functioning municipal centre until the 14th century, when people began moving permanently into town. From this period more than 50 stone houses have been recorded, housing clerics living off prebendaries. Built on large plots and surrounded by gardens, the town must have seemed impressive at this point. Several of these houses are still standing, Stenhusgården in Storgatan, the Stonehouse, called omnium sanctorum or Rhyseliushouse in Gråbrødragatan, and the medieval wing still preserved as part of the current residence of the bishop (Bredgården).

Linköping is especially known for its well-preserved diocesan archive from the beginning of the 16th century, which holds a number of important sources telling the story of Bishop Hans Brask and the day-to-day organisation of his household and the economy of the wider diocese. The museum in the castle tells the story. The full story of Hans Brask can be found here.

Medieval Textiles

Altar cloth band © Linköping Castle Museum
Altar cloth band © Linköping Castle Museum

Another reason to pay Linköping a visit is the collection of medieval textiles kept and exhibited in the same museum (in the castle). These were embroidered by the Bridgettines, whose main centre was in Vadstena c. 50 km west of Linköping. According to their rule, nuns had to work after dinner in the early afternoon according to their capabilities; as many had been brought up in Vadstena and there learned to sew and embroider, Vadstena was home to a large workshop. It is no wonder, the bishop in Linköping, who supervised the convent in Vadstena, was gifted with a profusion of vestments – copes, chasubles, mitres etc. However, most of the textiles in the collection in Linköping, originally heralded from the main church in Vadstena, which at the end of the Middle Ages had more than 60 altars, each requiring their own set of vestments used by the priest whose beneficiary it belonged to. Later, after the Reformation, they were disbanded at cathedrals in all of Sweden.

The most common colour used in these embroideries was red, which was worked in split stitch on silk fabrics, alternating with applications featuring roses, lilies and stars. Gold- and silver-thread might be used as well as fresh-water and coral pearls. Most of the models were found in the illuminations in the manuscripts in the library.

One of the more prominent pieces in the museum is the unique altar cloth band from the end of the 14th century with three figural scenes, heraldic coats of arms and Bridgetine lilies.


Linköpings Historia

Kulturarv ôstergötland


Museum of Castle and Cathedral in Linköping
Linköpings Slotts- & Domkyrkamuseum
582 28 Linköping

The Museum of Östergötland
Östergötlands Museum
Raoul Wallenbergs plats
581 02 Linköping

Openair Museum: Old Linköping
Friluftsmuseet Gamla Linköping
Tunnbindaregatan 1
581 81 Linköping
















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