The medieval pilgrimage reenacted

For today’s post I proudly present a new guest writer, my friend Frida. She has news on a event that will be possible to join during The battle of Wisby, something very special. As I hope I have mediated earlier, The Battle of Wisby is not only about a battle. It is also about experiencing and exploring many other aspects of medieval life.

Remember that I wrote about a photo shoot I did, posing for Fridas reenactment of a medieval pilgrimage on Gotland? She and the rest of the pilgrims came home from their journey the other day with a newly won in-depth knowledge and experience of both the worldly and the spiritual life of the medieval man or woman. This is the story of her medieval pilgrimage.

The rosary and Fridas pilgrim bag with badges from St. Olaf Holm, Sigtuna and Vadstena. Photo: Frida Gamero

The rosary and Fridas pilgrim bag with badges from St. Olaf Holm, Sigtuna and Vadstena. Photo: Frida Gamero

Perhaps it is only now, when I unpack the last of the things from the pilgrimage and sort them into washing-storage-closet-piles that it hits me what I have been through and what I got back with me. From a belt bag I pick up the rosary that Martin Eriksson and Åsa Martinsson made ​for each participant before the walk. When I hold it in my hand, I am suddenly closer to the medieval man or woman than ever before. Now I understand at an emotional level more of the emotional charge these objects had for those who kept them in hand every day and let the beads be accompanied by prayers to God and the Virgin Mary.

The pilgrims wanders over a dandelion field towards the holy well at Bro Church, Gotland. Photo: Johan Käll

The pilgrims wanders over a dandelion field towards the holy well at Bro Church, Gotland. Photo: Johan Käll

The medieval religion has of course a lot in common with my own but it also differs in many ways. As a modern Swedish protestant, there is a lot of superstition, magic, indulgences and perception of sin within the medieval faith which I object to on a personal level, but I can still get close to it and learn to understand this very different world view.

My curiosity about the medieval man’s spiritual life, socio-cultural conditions and experience of the world has always been stronger than my interest in the textiles, cut, stitching and other parts of the physical reenactment. Of course I aim to be as accurate as possible in my re-creation of the clothes, but they become means to reach a different kind of understanding. Behind the clothes we study so closely there was a real live person. She was more than her clothes, she had dreams, thoughts, experiences and emotions that defined her in a far more fundamental ways than her clothes did. It’s her I want to get to know.

Virgin Mary at her altar in the church Bro. Photo: Olivia Hansson

Virgin Mary at her altar in the church Bro. Photo: Olivia Hansson

Each day during the trek, I held the rosary in my hand and let the beads go between my fingers. “Ave Maria gratia plena … ” – Hail Mary full of grace – a very direct address to the era’s biggest superhero: a simple, poor woman who became the Mother of God. As a man of the Middle Ages was at the mercy of the uncertainty of reality; diseases, poverty and accidents could not be explained and understood in the same way as today, but became part of the heavenly wrath. In their vulnerable situation they asked for help from someone who had been human just like them, not as alien as the King of Kings, Lord Sebaoth. She was a tender mother who gladly rescued and helped. She’s not really a part of my spirituality, but I have during these days met her in a different way and got a glimpse of how important she was for past generations before the Reformation.

There is also a thought of what a great challenge a pilgrimage would have been at that time, before the safety of mobile phones, cars, extra shoes and maps. Usually with only stories and hearsay to go on, they took off to unknown regions, relying on the generosity and help of strangers. On our pilgrimage we had “both braces and belt”, plenty of equipment and food to get by, while the medieval pilgrim would prefer to go with just a stick and a small bag. If a man broke a leg or fell into an icy creek there was no simple solution or quick rescue to be found – they were at the mercy of the grace and benevolence of others.

The pilgrims in a meadow on Gotland. Photo: Olivia Hansson

The pilgrims in a meadow on Gotland. Photo: Olivia Hansson

My rosary and my pilgrim badge are not just things I bought to create a medieval costume, they carry meaning for me and memories of the trek, hardship, sore feet, joy, nervousness, fellowship, prayers and insights. And all at once I come the medieval human very close …

I know that more people out there share my interest in socio-cultural reenactment, and I want to encourage to take the opportunity this summer to take part in a fun and different experience on the topic:

During Battle of Wisby-event 2013 there will be held two shorter pilgrimages. The participants will take part of both theoretical overviews of what we know about the medieval pilgrimage-phenomenon and take part in Mass, prayers and the pilgrimage to the church of Bro. Hopefully the participants will take with them a bit of the same feeling for the spirituality of the 14th century given to us by our four day journey.

At Väskinde church. Photo: Olivia Hansson

At Väskinde church. Photo: Olivia Hansson

The pilgrimage will go through Stora Hästnäs with its preserved medieval house, Väskinde church that has an old horse parking built in the cemetery wall, Bro church that was one of the island’s most important pilgrimsites in the Middle Ages and the finish will be at the holy spring which lies just east of Bro. There you will be able to fill an ampulla with water from the well and carry around a piece of medieval man’s innermost being.

The pilgrimages will be held on Wednesday, 7/8 and Friday 9/8. Start 09:00 at the Cathedral and end around 18:00 (ride back to camp included). The cost is 170 sek an that includes a simple lunch. Maximum 15 people per group, so sign up now if you want a guaranteed spot.

Registration and questions to

My hunting partner Johan was also in on the journey and made a 35 minutes long film about their pilgrimage – watch it and be inspired!

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4 Responses to The medieval pilgrimage reenacted

  1. Kiwi says:

    Both Väskinde church and Bro church are very pretty. The Väskinde church is right next to my old school, and it’s where we held lucia and all of those things every year.
    I’ve been to Bro church a lot too, since the childrens choire I was in used to sing there during mass on sundays.

  2. Jorge says:

    Very nice and inspirational! I love the comments on the way 🙂
    They should try some day to make the medieval “Camiño de Santiago” in Spain!
    Jorge from Portugal

  3. Pingback: Banners | The official Battle of Wisby blog

  4. Scarabeus says:

    Great job guys quality stuff:) so well made

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