English translation of selected pages.
For images, see the Swedish pages as linked.
Ardrekistan is a very beautiful and well-preserved sandstone monument from the time of the transition to Christianity around the year 1100. Its mixture of pagan motifs, the runic cross, Christian prayer and its probable location inside Ardre's first church as a memorial to the woman Ailikn, gives a detailed insight into the Christianization of Gotland.
Ailikn ('always good') may have been one of the initiators of the construction of Ardre's first church.
Ardrekistan is, despite differences in form and execution, a Gotland counterpart to the early Christian grave monuments found on the mainland of Sweden, especially in Östergötland, which dates to about 1000-1130. These are also called Eskilstuna coffins after the first one found in 1912 in Eskilstuna. The Eskilstuna coffins were created with inspiration from the Anglo-Saxon tradition and consist of five decorated stone slabs; two side slabs, two end slabs and a lid. Ardrekistan lacks a lid. The Eskilstuna coffin was placed on top of the grave.
The parts of Ardrekistan were found in 1900 under the then church floor in connection with renovation work.
The two long sides, also called side slabs, are almost completely preserved. They are 62 cm high and 82 cm wide.
The short sides, also called gable slabs, are fragmentary. They are 72 cm high and 50-55 cm wide. The thickness of the parts varies between 3 and 6 cm. All preserved parts are richly decorated with relief-carved motifs of scenes in which people and human-like figures act together with more or less lifelike depictions of animals. All four slabs have rune-carved edges. Pigment remains reveal that the stone coffin was painted red in its submerged parts. The remains of paint and the absence of weathering indicate that the coffin has been placed inside the church.
The foot of Ardrekistan's one gable slab is significantly higher than the foot parts of the side slabs, which may indicate that the foot parts of the gable slabs were reduced in the dirt floor of the oldest church to provide support for the coffin. The holes in the upper parts of the side slabs indicate that bars were fitted to create the necessary stability in the coffin.
The coffin is too small to hold a human body. Christianity required earth burial.
A possible explanation for this discrepancy is that Ailikn's family partly wanted to keep their old burial rites despite becoming Christians. In that case, this meant that Ailikn was burned and the remains placed in the coffin, which presupposes an unpreserved lid. The absence of lids suggests that Ardrekistan was an "empty" burial monument, where Ailikn may have been buried under Ardrekistan.
The chest is now on display at the Historical Museum in Stockholm, https://vikingar.historiska.se/object_details.php?object=44509_HST&e=no&l=sv
Ardrekistan and the dwarf stone G113 provide a unique insight into a Gotland family at the end of the 11th century.
Ailikn was married to Liknat. Their sons Ottar, Gairvat and Aivat erected the dwarf stone G113 over their father Liknat, "a vigorous man". The four crosses that begin and end the runic inscription show that Liknat was a Christian. The human figure on the front could be Odin holding up his gold ring Draupner. Every ninth night, eight new gold rings "dropped" down from Draupner. The dwarf stone has probably stood outside, perhaps under the roof drop of the cross which was the most prominent place in the cemetery.
Ardrekistan is also built by Ailikn's sons. The runic inscription also mentions the sons' sister Liknvi.
Since Liknat is not mentioned, he died before Ailikn.
Ardrekistan has been placed inside Ardre's first church, which was probably a stave church with an earthen floor.
Ailikn was probably buried under the coffin in the late 11th century.
The combination of pagan ornamentation and Christian symbols in the runic inscriptions shows the cultural transition from pagan to Christian.
When the second church of Ardre was built, perhaps in 1166, Ardrekistan and the dwarf stones were placed directly on the mound according to a clear plan, with the upper part, the "head", towards the east symbolizing non-Christian people.
Christian burial custom is with the head to the west.
Ardrekistan was on the south, male side of the church and with a part towards the chancel.
The dwarf stone was on the northern, female side of the church.
The interpretation is that Ailikn was the main founder of Ardre's first church around the year 1080. The Ardrekistan and the dwarf stone show their newfound Christian faith. The Viking Age ornamentation means that they travel both according to old custom and with Christian support to their after-life.
From Eva Sjöstrand's book:
During the prayer "God and the Mother of God be merciful to this woman"
men who fight and fight
sword and mead horn raised to the highest point
winding dragons, eight-footed horse
so this Christian prayer "be merciful to her!"
Ailikn's wagon tells that several creeds
for a time lived side by side
act of toleration, common law
Because who had to choose theirs from Freya, Thor or Odin
So used was the boy to respect the neighbor's gods
that he hardly raised his eyebrows
when the Christians came with yet another
But abandoning the old?
It must have been tempting to take on new thoughts
worst not to be allowed to bury their dead on the family mound
Ardrekistan's interesting and sometimes unique features
According to Hardy (2016:23-24):
"Gun Westholm writes about the transition between asatro and Christianity. She believes that nothing indicates dramatic events in connection with the transition to Christianity. On the contrary, burial gifts and tax deposits suggest that pagans and Christians lived peacefully side by side. Although the Guta Law wants to let a unison Christianization and unification shine through in order to demonstrate its strength as a peasant republic, the archaeological material rather shows that expressions of the old religion did not disappear in a hurry. Belief in, and fear of, the old Asa gods lived on in folk beliefs and customs. This may be a reason why so many silver treasures were not collected during the early Christian era, as an older relative may have intended to use the hidden silver in Valhalla (Westholm 2004: 55). This could strengthen the thesis in this essay that the early Christian church builders were often able to know their ancestors and their past, and that they looked at them with respect and reverence."
There is an interesting difference between southern and northern Gotland according to Källström 2012:121. The younger long branch runes in Sweden are only found in southern Gotland, with Ardre and Sanda as the northernmost parishes. While the older short twig runes are only found in northern Gotland, with Alskog and Sanda as the southernmost parishes.
The distribution of image stones with short twig runes (red) and long twig runes (blue)
Map from Källström 2012. Edited by Helena Duveborg
Holmqvist (1977:214ff) describes the development of zoomorphic ornamentation in the following way: "From having followed its own classical play of lines, we now experience that the interlacing and the plant vine in a Germanic sense are filled with a new, vital element with a most peculiar effect. The grape bunches of the vine or acanthus leaves are replaced by biting animal heads, tendrils and leaves become animal legs and nape tufts, the network of ribbon loops culminates in animal heads or is completely transformed into coiled snakes, etc. This type of zoomorphization is extremely rare outside Germanic territory, but it exists, which I have had occasion to describe in a previous work. (Holmqvist 1942, p. 175 ff.) We can observe this zoomorphization not only in the Nordic countries but also in Lombard Italy, in France, Switzerland, Germany and Anglo-Saxon England. It is a rhythm and movement, a resilience and a life in this art, which is completely lacking in the classical publishers, but the question is where it all began. As already mentioned, this new style of art, Salin's Style II, appears among the Germans on the continent as well as in England and in the Nordic countries. In the same way as with regard to the older style era, they wanted to give a certain preference to the Nordic countries, perhaps over all because the new style there got such a perfectly beautiful design. But in a more in-depth study, one cannot successfully claim a Nordic priority. It would then be easier to give Anglo-Saxon England the lead. There you have a long series of intermediate forms, which connect the older style with the new.
I think of the English illuminated manuscripts of the 9th and 11th centuries, and I think especially of their initial ornamentation. This is an extraordinarily rich and extensive material, which — as far as I know — very few researchers have had the opportunity to study in more detail. There, in abundant rich variations, you find samples of the "spontaneity" that Lennart Karlsson attributes to the Nordic rune stone masters. (Kendrick 1949, Holmqvist 1963, Wormald 1945, p. 107 ff.)
In a more penetrating study of the 9th century or The art of the 11th century in the British Isles and in the Nordic countries forces one to make the following observations as far as plant ornamentation is concerned:
In the Nordic countries, there is no plant ornamentation during the 9th century
During the 11th century, a type of plant ornamentation begins to appear in the Nordic countries, which has obvious connections to the British Isles
But the initials of the English manuscripts were drawn and painted by scribes, who wanted to emphasize the sacred texts in artistic loops and meaningful zoomorphic and vegetal details. — How many such manuscripts did the pagan northerners take home with them on their travels in Västerled?
I therefore call the style of the rune stones the calligraphic style, intended for parchment but carved in stone. Isn't there something particularly significant in this, that our oldest written sources, the rune stones, were created under the influence of the oldest written documents that found their way to our country at all?"
Brief description of how the copy was made:
Points 1-4 have been carried out by Joakim Möller, madCAM
Points 5-6 by Katarina Söderdahl
Point 7 by Bengt Botvalde (table forging, tar burning) and Joel Rickardsson (the board)
Point 8 by Andreas Oxenstierna with sign printing by Skyltmax
Point 9 by Ove Andersson (carpentry ) and Anneli Oxenstierna (painting)
The various parts of the coffin were found in 1900, placed under the then church floor directly on black soil. The Finnish-Swedish linguist Hugo Pipping described the discovery in detail in 1902. The largest stone is the Völund Stone from the 8th century (now in the Historical Museum in Stockholm, a copy can be found at the village hall). Ardrekistan are the stones referred to in the texts as I, II, V and VI. Pipping did not realize that these four stones belonged together. III, IV and VII are the three dwarf rocks described on this page.
Only stones 7 and Völundsstenen are worn, i.e. they have probably been lying as floor slabs for some time.
According to Roosval (1963:803ff), the current church should be the third on the same site. The first church should have been a wooden church about 3 meters wide, with Ardrekistan probably placed directly on its earthen floor.
The circumstances surrounding the find indicate that the stones were piously laid down in a definite order under the church floor, with the main ends towards the east, when Ardre's second church was built. In the middle was the large image stone that should have stood in a nearby burial ground.
All the stones were placed inside the foundation walls of the second church. According to Strelow, Ardre church was consecrated in 1166. This is art-historically consistent with the history of the church's origin.
The current church was built in three stages during the 13th century (Roosval 1963:781-783).
The oldest wooden church was probably built around 1100, which agrees well with Ardrekistan's dating.
The image below uses different numbering than the rest. Ardrekistan is 2,3,4, 5a and 5b. The dwarf stones are 1, 6 and 7.
According to Ardreboar (Tingström 2008:210): "When the heiress Olsson came up to the church, 2 more workers were going to break the stone for filling. However, he managed to save it for posterity.” Pipping's description in 1902 of the finds, omitted text marked with ....:
"During a stay in Visby in the summer of 1900, on June 23, I received a bachelor's degree. O. W. Wennersten a letter with notification that a runic find was made during the repair of Ardre church. …. As early as June 25, I traveled down to Ardre and initially sought out the parish's then vice-pastor, now the parish priest in Hejnum, Mr. K. P. Kristiansson. Mr. Kristiansson informed me that a large image stone without runes had been found and taken care of, and that rune stones had also been discovered under the church vault. However, these latter were difficult to access, because the interior of the church was cluttered with scaffolding. However, I went to church. The large image stone was carried in the cemetery, and arrangements were made for its marking. Inside the church I found the golf course removed and only the mullein visible everywhere where it was not covered by scaffolding, which had been erected against the walls and ceiling. In the middle of the church was a large pit, indicating the place where the image stone lay. Next to the pit, a runestone fragment was excavated, the left half of runestone no. V. Of the stone no. III, which lay north of the pit with side a (the ornamented side) facing upwards and the half-round to the east, only a part was visible. The rest was covered with earth, and on the mound in the middle above the stone rested the tip of an upright log, belonging to the scaffolding. While I was busy brushing the stones and submitting the inscriptions to a preliminary examination, a local farmer came into the church. Seeing my interest in the stones, he was kind enough to procure tools to prop up the log just mentioned and dig up the buried stone. Shortly afterwards come also the vicar Kristiansson and the parish's school teacher Mr. Engström were present. In the course of a short morning, in addition to the previously mentioned stone III (the cleft in two parts), the two fragments which together form the right half of stone V, two pieces which form stone VI, two related pieces of the badly mutilated stone were brought out II, the fragment I a and the stone VII, which, although divided into four pieces, is complete as far as part of the foot piece. The fear that the scaffolding would collapse prevented us from continuing our search. They had been restricted to a fairly insignificant area in the middle of the church. ….
On further examination we found that no less than three of the stones had been partially covered with red paint, viz. V, VI and I a (about I b, which was not yet found, see below). The dye was found partly in the grooves that form the runes, partly on the bottom fields of the ornaments. The stones in question are worked according to a method which seems to have been devised precisely with regard to the colouring. The figures on the middle part are made in relief, the runes are again carved into the raised border, which limits the bottom field of the middle part, and lie in the same plane as this field, from which they run out like bays from a sea. The runes run nowhere all the way to the edge of the stone. Thus, if one lays the stone horizontally and pours a red liquid over it, the liquid collects in the depressions, and the runes appear red against a background of the natural color of the stone, while the figures appear in natural color against a red background. …. National Antiquary H. Hildebrand has had a piece of dye scraped off and examined chemically. The color turned out to be fine. On the stones V and VI akttogo kand. Wennersten and I the peculiar device, that boreholes running transversely through the stone had been placed in both upper corners. …. (since the scaffolding was taken down on October 18) Immediately afterwards, digging and explorations were undertaken, in which, apart from B.Sc. Wennersten and I also the school teacher Engström and some members of the church council took part. The result was that B.Sc. Wennersten found the fragment I b and cartridge Olsson in the Petsarfve stone IV. ….
The fragment I b was in the middle of the wall c, so close to it, that traces of the stone were still visible on the wall after its removal.”
According to Gräslund (1991,2006), Ardrekistan belongs to period 4 (1060-1100) and/or period 5 (1080-1130) of the Urness style. Ardrekistan can be reasonably safely dated to the end of the 11th century.
Side sherd V suggests Pr4:“The eye is elongated almond-shaped, very large in relation to the head; it fills almost the entire head surface and follows the bending of the head.”
Side slab VI indicates Pr5: “The triangular head has a straight bottom line, straight closed mouth with a small nose flap downwards. The upper line of the head is almost angular and has a slightly upturned tip of the nose. The eye may be narrow almond-shaped but is usually absent.”
Read more at https://sv.wikipedia.org/wiki/Runstenstilar
The rune expert Magnus Källström wrote the following in 2022 in an article in Populär Arkeologi:
”Ardrekistan was added at the initiative of Liknat's sons in memory of their mother Ailikn, whose name means 'always good'.
On the unfortunately fragmentary card pages, a violent battle is depicted, where one can see, among other things, a child dressed in black lying prone on the ground while another lying figure gets a spear in the stomach. On the opposite card side, a slightly larger boy is depicted being given a strong shove by a screaming, axe-wielding man with wide eyes, who at the same time steps on a man just below, who is buckling under the burden. This cannot be described as anything other than pure massacre.
At the bottom of the first slab (gavelhäll I) Odin is depicted on his eight-legged horse Sleipner. It is most likely that what is depicted is Ragnarök or one of the battles between brothers that, according to Valan's prophecy, precedes the final battle and the end of the world. At the same time, the coffin is not a pagan monument, but the inscription appears to have contained a Christian prayer with the hope that God and the Mother of God will be merciful to Ailikn and those who had the monument made.
The question is what actually happens on both sides of the coffin. On one side you see two runic snakes, with long double tongues, held together by what at first looks like a ribbon knot, but which on closer inspection turns out to be a woman with bowed head, holding the necks of the two snakes. Above her is depicted a small running man with a sword in his belt who appears to be emptying a small drinking horn in flight. The other long side is dominated by two large opposing quadrupeds, biting their own necks and surrounded by a jumble of smaller snakes. At the bottom is a man who has probably fallen in the fight against them, but who is still fighting even though it may look like he is lying back a little sullenly. Another man still stands straight and defends a small colt, which he carries on his shoulder, against the attacking small snakes.
This must surely be a representation of the fight against the evil powers, which are fought and chained with joint forces, where the future belongs to the little child."
The fallen man has been interpreted as the hero in the snake pit, Gunnar in the Völsung saga. Hultgård has some image interpretations that deviate from Källström's (Hultgård 2017:175-180).
The man with the colt on his shoulder has been interpreted as Kristoffer carrying Christ (Thunmark-Nylén 1990).
Ardrekistan is dominated by a highly stylized animal ornamentation in the so-called The Urnes style (after the Urnes stave church in western Norway). Characteristic of the style is the "big animal", which is depicted with very long and slender limbs, a long neck and a flattened head. Other moves are one clearasymmetry, an interplay between wide and narrow lines, long, narrow motifs and a smooth and gradually narrower linework. The style also includes braided patterns with narrow S- or figure-of-eight ribbon loops. The style as a whole is usually perceived as airy, resilient and elegant. Ardrekistan side slab VI is an exquisite example of advanced animal ornamentation, which initially gives an almost confused impression, but closer study shows definite rules in its construction.
The Urnes style represents the final high point of this pagan Norse ornamentation, with clear English contacts. The runic inscription on an image stone from Hogrän shows that on Gotland the "dragon loops" were called snake lizards (ormaluR).
The ornament that holds the snake lizard loops together is called an Irish leash. The "coupling" can look many different ways, but the connecting part is always shaped like a pretzel. The name "Irish" is probably misleading as it can also have an eastern origin (Nylén 1979:80-81).
Side plate V has two Irish links in the middle of the plate. The lower leash is designed as a woman with a crotch and two feet. Between the links is a male figure with drinking horn and sword hilt and possibly an upside down half-seated male figure holding a dagger.
In the Nordic countries around 800-1200 two variants of runes were used:
Stung runes, where dots are inserted into the rune, began to be used around the year 1000 to increase the number of characters.
The runic inscription is made with long twig runes, with stung runes for e and y.
The inscription seems to have no connection with images and ornamentation.
The runic inscription starts at the lower left on side slab V, continues on gable slab I, side slab VI and ends on the missing lower edge of gable slab II. (: is punctuation mark, (X runes) number of missing runes)
side shelf V : syniR : liknatar (3 runes) arua : merki : kut : ebtir : ailikni : kunu : koþa : moþur :
gable slab I (24 runes) s :auk : kiaRuataR : auk : liknuiaR :
side slab VI : kuþa(18 runes)n : heni : auk : kieruantum : merki : m(9 runes)ua : aR : men : sin :
gable slab II (XX runes) R : i : karþum : aR : uaR : uiue meR : : h (XX runes)
Transliterated, the inscription reads (italicized text = supposed text for lost runes)
Sons of Liknat (had made) a good memorial for Ailikn, a good woman, mother (of Aivat and Ottar). Gairvat and Liknvi. God (and the Mother of God be merciful) to her and to those who do the memorial care, (the greatest) that can be seen (. She was the only daughter of Aibjörn) in Garda, who was with Vive ...
Presumably the runic inscription continued on the lower edge of gable slab II, possibly with a description of Aibjörn's exploits in the east along with Vive. "good" is a common word of judgment in runic inscriptions, can be roughly translated as "capable".
Ardrekistan is described in detail in Sweden's runic inscriptions as G114, where G stands for Gotland (sri_gotland_b11_d01_text_3_85-137).
Image stones and rune stones seem to have been magnificently painted, often in red and black, but probably also in several other colors (Nylén 1979:82).
Ardrekistan's remains show that the stone coffin was painted red in its submerged parts.
One can suspect that its raised parts were painted in black and/or other colors.
The different parts of Ardrekistan are normally called coffin stones. They have usually been treated relatively stepmotherly by research and there is not full consensus about the function.
Lindqvist (1964:90ff) lists 29 coffin-shaped pictographs which he interprets as sacrificial altars.
Stenqvist (2014a:6-8, 13-15) believes that these image stones were not part of a coffin but were independent and calls them small wave-shaped image stones.
However, Ardrekistan's coherent runic inscription, uniform carving technique and several construction details clearly indicate that at least Ardrekistan's various parts were originally assembled in a coffin form.
There are a few similar Gotland coffin stones preserved:
According to Källström 2012:123, on the other hand, G266 (Stenkyrka) is carved with short twig runes, i.e. significantly older than Ardrekistan.
Similarities in carving technique and ornamentation are found between Gotland's dwarf stones, for example those found in Ardre, and the Öland burial monuments (Ljung 2016a:159-160,169).
The runestones from Resmo, especially Öland 4, bear several similarities to Ardrekistan.
The dwarf stones, all of sandstone, mostly lack Christian symbols and their ornamentation has clear similarities to the large image stones.
The dwarf stones are dated to the middle/end of the 11th century. Presumably they are reasonably contemporary as two of them are very similar in execution.
The dwarf stones are described in detail in Sweden's runic inscriptions as G111-113, where G stands for Gotland (sri_gotland_b11_d01_text_3_85-137).
The dwarf stones are now in the Historiska Museum in Stockholm.
Inscription: Sibba erected the stone for Rodiaud, his wife, daughter of Rodgair in Anga. She died young from underage.
The dimensions of the dwarf stone are: height 48 cm, base 28 cm; width 49 cm; thickness 5 cm
The stone has dragon ornamentation on both sides.
Sibba is a remarkable male name, very few Nordic male names end in -a (Ormika, Orœkia, Sturla). On the mainland, Sibbi (short form of Sigbjörn) is relatively common.
Inscription: Sibba had the stone made after his and Rodiaud's daughter.
The dimensions of the dwarf stone are: height 34 cm, base 39 cm high; width 50 cm; thickness 4-6 cm
The stone has a dragon loop on the back.
G112 is slightly younger than G111 because the mother Rodiaud, who died early, is not mentioned as the maker of the stone.
Inscription: Ottar and Gairvat and Aivat they set the stone after Liknat, their father. Radhtjalv and Gairniaut they did good memory care for a healthy man. Likraiv carved the runes.
The dimensions of the dwarf stone are: height 54 cm, base 30 cm high; width 48-60 cm; thickness 5-6 cm
The stone has dragon ornamentation on both sides and also human figures on the front.
The runic inscription begins and ends with Christian crosses on both sides.
The Dwarf Stone is erected over Liknat, apparently the husband of Ailikn of Ardrekistan.
The position of the research is that the Christianization was carried out in the north of Gotland starting in the early 11th century, while it was carried out many decades later in the south of Gotland, possibly only around 1150.
Ardrekistan's relatively late dating and the Guta law's section on blots confirm this: "It is next, that blots are for all strictly prohibited and all ancient customs that accompany paganism. No one may invoke hult or mounds or pagan gods, shrines or staveyards."
The Guta law seems to be mentioned as early as 1216 in a bishop's letter (SDHK 350). That it contains a prohibition against blot indicates that Christianity was not yet fully implemented. Ljung (2020:174-177) discusses the long-term and partly complex Christianisation process on Gotland.
Ardrekistan is an exquisite example of this syncretism, viz. mixture of pagan and Christian burial customs.
Researchers have long debated whether Christianity also took place from the east through the extensive Gotland contacts with present-day Russia.
No Russo-Byzantine mission from the east can be found, despite clear artistic influences, for example in the Garda church.
On the other hand, the influence from the east seems to have been significant during the 12th century.
According to Vasilyeva (2009:108):
"The earlier stage belongs to the first half of the 12th century and is characterized by the local artists' interpretation and imitation of Russian-Byzantine tendencies. The latter stage falls in the second half of the century when Russian-Byzantine traditions are established on the island and are then considered so important that they even call in masters from the East, true representatives of Russian-Byzantine culture.”
The names of the Ardre inscriptions are very foreign to us: Ailikn, Gairvat, Liknat, Rodtjaud and Liknvi. These names were typical names on Gotland during the Viking Age and the early Middle Ages.
Rodtjaud ("famous person") was the most common female name in the early Middle Ages but is not known outside of Gotland.
Personal names on runic inscriptions from Gotland are very different from the rest of the Nordic region. The most common female (Tora, Åsa) and male (Sven, Björn, Torsten) names in the Nordic region are unknown among Gotland's 115 personal names (of which 14-15 are female names).
Almost all Gotland names are compound, e.g. Hróð-þiúð (Rootjaud).
Number of knowns for the most common pre- and post-name parts on Gotland:
GæiR- "spear" 9
Hróð- "praise" 14 (e.g. HróðulfR, nowadays Rolf)
-hvatr "fast, bold, manly" 7
Líkn-, -líkn "goodness, grace, comfort” 5
Þiúð-, -þiúð "people" (Svitjod) 1 modern words: tyda, German
Vi-, -vi "holy" 5 only in female names
Æi- "always/lonely" 6 Ailikn: "always good / lonely comfort"
Digitally accessible references are collected in https://www.dropbox.com/sh/4nthvw0cwkk6kv0/AADbttv3fw6eUAwnbXC2JJlXa?dl=0
See the Swedish page Referenser for the other references.
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