- Axel Bolvig
Largest island in the Baltic Sea and a province and municipality of Sweden that also includes Fårö, Gotska Sandön and Karlsö islands. The history and economic importance of Gotland is connected to its central position in the Baltic Sea. Culturally it has been compared with Rhodes, Crete and Sicily. Archaeological evidence dating from as early as the 1st millennium bc indicates close interaction with areas as distant as the Indian Ocean as well as a flourishing trade during the Viking age. Throughout the medieval period, the town of Visby attracted many German tradesmen and became a centre of the Hanseatic League. The Danish army invaded Gotland in 1361, destroyed the peasants’ army and extorted large contributions from Visby. Later, Gotland became a centre for pirates and its importance declined. At times it was under Danish control but since 1645 it has been part of Sweden.
Several hundred tombstones decorated during the Iron Age and Viking period are unique to Gotland and offer an insight into a pre-Christian world. During the Middle Ages, 97 churches of great architectural interest were built, and baptismal fonts were widely exported, providing evidence of the area as a centre of intense artistic activity....