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Gotland vapen.svg
Coat of Arms
Sweden Gotland location map modified.svg
Gotland (Sweden)
LocationBaltic Sea
Coordinates57°30′N 18°33′E / 57.500°N 18.550°E / 57.500; 18.550
Area3,183.7 km2 (1,229.2 sq mi)
CountyGotland County
MunicipalityGotland Municipality
Largest cityVisby (pop. 22,236[1])
Population57,221[2] (as of 2009)
Density18.25 /km2 (47.27 /sq mi)
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Gotland vapen.svg
Coat of Arms
Sweden Gotland location map modified.svg
Gotland (Sweden)
LocationBaltic Sea
Coordinates57°30′N 18°33′E / 57.500°N 18.550°E / 57.500; 18.550
Area3,183.7 km2 (1,229.2 sq mi)
CountyGotland County
MunicipalityGotland Municipality
Largest cityVisby (pop. 22,236[1])
Population57,221[2] (as of 2009)
Density18.25 /km2 (47.27 /sq mi)
Unofficial flag of Gotland

Gotland (/ˈɡɒtlənd/; Swedish pronunciation: [ˈɡɔtland] ( ),[3] older spellings include Gottland /ˈɡɒtlənd/ or Gothland /ˈɡɒθlənd/,[4]), Gutland in the local language Gutnish, is a province, county, municipality, and diocese of Sweden. It is Sweden's largest island and the largest island in the Baltic Sea.[5][6][7] With its total area of 3,183.7 square kilometers (1,229.2 square miles), the island of Gotland and the other areas of the province of Gotland make up less than one percent of Sweden's total land area. The province includes the small islands of Fårö and Gotska Sandön to the north, as well as the Karlsö Islands (Lilla and Stora) to the west, which are even smaller. The island of Gotland has an area of 2,994 km² (1,156 mi²), whereas the province has 3,183.7 km² (1,229.2 mi²) [3,151 km² (1,217 mi²) of land excluding the lakes and rivers].[8] The population is 57,221,[2] of which about 22,200 live in Visby, the main town.[1] The island's main sources of income are tourism, agriculture, and concrete production from locally mined limestone.


The traditional provinces of Sweden serve no administrative or political purposes, but are historical and cultural entities. In the case of Gotland, however, due to its insular position, the administrative county (län), Gotland County, and the municipality (kommun), Gotland Municipality, both cover the same territory as the province. Furthermore, the Diocese of Visby is also congruent with the province.


Gotland was granted its arms in about 1560.[9] The coat of arms is represented with a ducal coronet. Blazon: "Azure a ram statant Argent armed Or holding on a cross-staff of the same a banner Gules bordered and with five tails of the third." The county was granted the same coat of arms in 1936. The municipality, created in 1971, uses the same picture, but with other tinctures.

The Gotlandic flag displays the Gotlandic coat of arms, white on red ground, known from the 13th century in the shape of the seal of the Gutnish Republic with the proud ram. It reads: "Gutenses signo xpistus signatur in agno".


Map of Gotland

Visby is the seat of the municipality as well as the capital of the county. It has a population of approximately 22,200,[1] around two-fifths of the island's population.

Gotland is located about 90 km (56 mi) east of the Swedish mainland and about 130 km (81 mi) from the Baltic States, Latvia being the nearest. Gotland is the name of the main island, but the adjacent islands are generally considered part of Gotland and the Gotlandic culture:

There are several shallow lakes located near shores of the island. The biggest is Lake Bästeträsk, located near Fleringe in the northern part of Gotland.

Gotland contains many popular beaches, such as Tofta Strand, and Hundfria strand.

The highest point of the island is Lojsta Hed which stands 82 m above sea level.


A Silurian reef complex.

Gotland is made up of a sequence of sedimentary rocks of a Silurian age, dipping to the south-east. The main Silurian succession of limestones and shales comprises thirteen units spanning 200–500 m of stratigraphic thickness, being thickest in the south, and overlies a 75- to 125-m thick Ordovician sequence.[10] It was deposited in a shallow, hot and salty sea, on the edge of an equatorial continent.[11] The water depth never exceeded 175–200 m,[12] and shallowed over time as bioherm detritus, and terrestrial sediments, filled the basin. Reef growth started in the Llandovery, when the sea was 50–100 m deep, and reefs continued to dominate the sedimentary record.[10] Some sandstones are present in the youngest rocks towards the south of the island, which represent sand bars deposited very close to the shore line.[13]

The lime rocks have been weathered into characteristic karstic rock formations known as rauks. Fossils, mainly of rugose corals and brachiopods, are abundant throughout the island; palæo-sea-stacks are preserved in places.[14]


A DNA study conducted on the 5000 year old skeletal remains of three Middle Neolithic seal hunters from Gotland showed that they were related to modern-day Finns. A farmer from Västergötland on the mainland was found to be closer related to modern-day Mediterraneans. This is consistent with the spread of agricultural peoples from the Middle East at about that time.[15]

Tofta Church, one of the island's many iconic, well-preserved medieval churches
This is the Torsätra runestone (U 614) which was raised in memory of one of the Swedish king's tribute collectors who fell ill and died during a trip to Gotland. It is in the Swedish Museum of National Antiquities in Stockholm.

The island is the home of the Gutes (the tribal name of the Gotlandic people), and sites such as Ajvide show that it has been occupied since prehistory. Early on, Gotland became a commercial center and the town of Visby was the most important Hanseatic city in the Baltic Sea. In late medieval times, the island had twenty district courts (tings), each represented by its elected judge at the island-ting, called landsting. New laws were decided at the landsting, which also took other decisions regarding the island as a whole.

Among medieval Scandinavian accounts discussing or mentioning Gotland are Gutasaga and the more legendary Hversu Noregr byggdist[16] and Orkneyinga saga.[17]

Orkneyinga saga was written around 1200 CE by an unknown Icelandic author. The Hversu account is only known to have survived in one single copy in Icelandic Flateyjarbók from 1387 CE, but may have been written earlier. According to Orkneyinga saga, Norwegian rulers were descendants of king Fornjót who "reigned over Gotland, which we now know as Finland and Kvenland". The Hversu account states that a descendant of Fornjót "ruled over Gothland, Kvenland (Kænlandi), and Finland".

Gutasaga contains legends of how the island was settled by Þieluar and populated by his descendants. It also tells that a third of the population had to emigrate and settle in southern Europe, a tradition associated with the migration of the Goths, whose name has the same origin as Gutes, the native name of the people of the island. It later tells that the Gutes voluntarily submitted to the king of Sweden and asserts that the submission was based on mutual agreement, and notes the duties and obligations of the Swedish King and Bishop in relationship to Gotland. It is therefore not only an effort to write down the history of Gotland, but also an effort to assert Gotland's independence from Sweden.

It gives Awair Strabain as the name of the man who arranged the mutually beneficial agreement with the king of Sweden; the event would have taken place before the end of the 9th century, when Wulfstan of Hedeby reported that the island was subject to the Swedes:

Then, after the land of the Burgundians, we had on our left the lands that have been called from the earliest times Blekingey, and Meore, and Eowland, and Gotland, all which territory is subject to the Sweons; and Weonodland was all the way on our right, as far as Weissel-mouth.[18]

The region is considered by some historians to be the original homeland of the Goths.[19]

The Visby city wall, near the North gate.

The city of Visby and rest of the island were governed separately, and a civil war caused by conflicts between the German merchants in Visby and the peasants they traded with in the countryside had to be put down by King Magnus III of Sweden in 1288. In 1361, Valdemar Atterdag of Denmark invaded the island. The Victual Brothers occupied the island in 1394 to set up a stronghold as a headquarters of their own in Visby. At last, Gotland became a fiefdom of the Teutonic Knights, awarded to them on the condition that they expel the piratical Victual Brothers from their fortified sanctuary. An invading army of Teutonic Knights conquered the island in 1398, destroying Visby and driving the Victual Brothers from Gotland. In 1409 Grand Master Ulrich von Jungingen of the Teutonic Knights guaranteed peace with the Kalmar Union of Scandinavia by selling the island of Gotland to Queen Margaret of Denmark, Norway and Sweden.

The number of Arab dirhams discovered on the island of Gotland alone is astoundingly high. In the various hoards located around the island, there are more of these silver coins than at any other site in Western Eurasia. The total sum is almost as great as the number that has been unearthed in the entire Muslim world. These coins moved north through trade between Rus merchants and the Abbasid Caliphate, along the Silver-Fur Road, and the money made by Scandinavian merchants would help northern Europe, especially Viking Scandinavia and the Carolingian Empire, as major commercial centers for the next several centuries.

The Berezan' Runestone, discovered in 1905 in Ukraine, was made by a Varangian (Viking) trader named Grani in memory of his business partner Karl. It is assumed that they were from Gotland.

The Mästermyr chest, an important artefact from the Viking Age, was found in Gotland.

The authority of the landsting was successively eroded after the island was occupied by the Teutonic Order, then sold to Eric of Pomerania and after 1449 ruled by Danish governors. In late medieval times, the ting consisted of twelve representatives for the farmers, free-holders or tenants. Since the Treaty of Brömsebro in 1645, the island has remained under Swedish rule.


Iron Age axe from Gotland.
The valknut symbol has its most discovered examples on Gotland.

A number of stones with grooves exist on Gotland. Archaeologists interpret these grooves as traces of an unknown industrial process in the High Middle Ages. There are approximately 3,700 grinding grooves, of which about 750 occur in the solid limestone outcrop and the rest in other rock formations. The latter often consist of hard rocks such as granite or gneiss, but also soft rocks such as sandstone occur. Grinding grooves are also found in Skåne, in southern Sweden and in Finland. Astronomer Göran Henriksson dates a number of these grinding grooves to the Stone Age, from c. 3300 BCE to c. 2000 BCE, based on astronomical alignments,[20] although his methodology has been heavily criticized.[21]

The Medieval town of Visby has been entered as a site of the UNESCO World heritage programme. An impressive feature of Visby is the fortress wall that surrounds the old city, dating from the 13th century.

The inhabitants of Gotland traditionally spoke their own language, known as Gutnish. Today however, they have adapted a dialect of Swedish that is known as "Gotländska".

In the 13th century, a work containing the laws of the island, called "the Gotlandic law" (Gutalagen), was published in the ancient Gutnish language.

Gotland is famous for its 94 medieval churches (see List of churches on Gotland),[22] most of which are restored and in active use. These churches exhibit two major styles of architecture: Romanesque and Gothic. The older churches were constructed in the Romanesque style from 1150–1250. The newer churches were constructed in the Gothic architectural style that prevailed from about 1250–1400. The oldest painting inside one of the churches on Gotland stretches as far back in time as the 12th century.

Traditional games of skill like Kubb, Pärk, and Varpa are played on Gotland. They are part of what has become called "Gutniska Lekar", and are performed preferably on the Midsummer's Eve celebration on the island, but also throughout the summer months. The games have widespread renown; some of them are played by people as far away as in the United States.

The knotwork design subsequently named the "Valknut" has the most attested historic instances on picture stones in Gotland, which include being on both the Stora Hammars I and the Tängelgårda stones. Gotland also has a rich heritage of folklore, including myths about the bysen, Di sma undar jordi, Hoburgsgubben and the Martebo lights.

Gotland competes in the biennial Island Games, which it hosted in 1999.

Gotland gives its name to the traditional farmhouse beer Gotlandsdricka, a turbid beer with much in common with Finnish sahti, and related beers from the Baltic States.

Notable Gotlanders[edit]

Dukes and Duchesses of Gotland[edit]

In popular culture[edit]

The Long Ships, or Red Orm (original title: Röde Orm), a best-selling Swedish novel written by Frans Gunnar Bengtsson, contains a vivid description of Gotland in the Viking Age. A section of the book is devoted to a Viking ship setting out to Russia, stopping on its way at Gotland and engaging a pilot from the island who plays an important part in their voyage. Gotlanders of the Viking era are depicted as city people, more sophisticated and cosmopolitan than other Scandinavians of their time, and proud of their knowledge and skills.

The crime novels of Mari Jungstedt, featuring Detective Superintendent Anders Knutas, are set on Gotland.

In the Battlefield Vietnam video game modification Invasion Gotland, the Soviet army invades Gotland in 1977.

For the 1989 Studio Ghibli film, Kiki's Delivery Service, by Hayao Miyazaki, he and other illustrators spent time in Gotland in preparation for animation.

For the 2013 historical drama Vikings (TV_series), we learn in Season 2 that Ragnar_Lodbroks village is in Gotland and he becomes the Jarl there.

Sports events[edit]

Sports organisations[edit]

Football in the province is administered by Gotlands Fotbollförbund. The leading football club is FC Gute.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Statistics Sweden (as of December 31, 2005)
  2. ^ a b Statistics Sweden (as of December 31, 2009)
  3. ^ [1] Svenska Akademiens ordlista, 6 February 2013
  4. ^ [2]
  5. ^ Renate Platzöder, Philomène A. Verlaan (1996). The Baltic Sea: new developments in national policies and international cooperation, Volume 1. Martinus Nijhoff Publishers. 
  6. ^ Sailing Directions, Baltic Sea. ProStar Publications. ISBN 9781577857594. 
  7. ^ Heather Knowles (2010). Passport Series: Western Europe. Lorenz Educational Press. ISBN 978-1-4291-2255-9. 
  8. ^ Statistisk årsbok för Sverige 2009
  9. ^ Clara Nevéus, Bror jacques de Wærn: Ny svensk vapenbok, 1992
  10. ^ a b Laufeld, S. (1974). Silurian Chitinozoa from Gotland. Fossils and Strata (5). Universitetsforlaget. 
  11. ^ Creer 1973
  12. ^ Gray, Laufield & Boucot, 1974
  13. ^ Long, D.G.F. (1993). "The Burgsvik beds, an Upper Silurian storm generated sand ridge complex in southern Gotland". Geologiska Föreningens i Stockholms Förhandlingar (GFF) 115 (4): 299–309. ISSN 0016-786X. 
  14. ^ Laufeld, Sven; Martinsson, Anders (22–28 August 1981). "Reefs and ultrashallow environments. Guidebook to the field excursions in the Silurian of Gotland". Project Ecostratigraphy Plenary Meeting. 
  15. ^ DNA study published in on April 26, 2012. Pontus Skoglund on prehistoric Gotlanders: "The hunter-gatherers show the greatest similarity to modern-day Finns."
  16. ^ Hversu Noregr byggdist. See also original text.
  17. ^ Orkneyinga saga. See also original text.
  18. ^ "Discovery of Muscovy by Richard Hakluyt – Project Gutenberg". 1 May 2003. Retrieved 11 August 2010. 
  19. ^ See Goths and Scandza for more information on this matter.
  20. ^ Göran Henriksson (1983). "Astronomisk tolkning av slipskåror på Gotland". Fornvännen (Royal Swedish Academy of Letters, History and Antiquities). 
  21. ^ Jonathan Lindström; Curt Roslund (2000). "Göran Henrikssons nonsensforskning". Folkvett (Vetenskap och Folkbildning). 
  22. ^ Gotland is famous for its 94 medieval churches

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 57°30′N 18°33′E / 57.500°N 18.550°E / 57.500; 18.550