If you take buss number 100 from the Central Station in Malmoe and take a 35 minute trip south to just north of Höllviken in Vellinge Municipality and the Falsterbo Peninsula in the south-west corner of Skåne/Scania you come to a place called Foteviken. Since 2001 there’s a Viking Museum with a reconstructed small town. The house replicas show us what the houses here looked like in the Viking Era, ca 870 – 1066 and the early High Middle Ages, ca 1060 – 1200 A.D. Here in Höllviken and Foteviken/Foot Bay there was a Viking settlement in those days. In June 1134 there was also a fierce battle fought here. I’ll come to that later. If you’re interested in visiting the world’s only existing entire Viking city replica you should go to Foteviken out-door Viking Museum in the summer-time. This week and week-end there was a Viking Market with fairs, merchants, villagers and warriors. You find more information on http://www.fotevikenmuseum.se. Telephone +4640-330 807 and +4640-330800. E-mail: email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org. The address is Museivägen 24, 236 91 Höllviken, Sweden. When you get off the bus at Hallörsvägen you walk back a little bit and follow the signs and a path for about five minutes to the museum. There’s also a parking space for cars in the fields just outside the museum area. The price entry is 120 Swedish Kronor in cash, no cards are accepted. I visited Foteviken both yesterday and today. Yesterday on my own and today with some friends of mine.
The Village Community of Foteviken was founded in the autumn of 2001 and in 2008 there were 23 complete houses built on the site. Each summer it’s populated by voluntairies who love enacting Viking and Middle Age life on occassion. However the Vikings are not only Swedes, but come from many different places. When you walk around the Viking city you meet and see Vikings from Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Germany, Poland, Great Britain, India, Thailand, Japan etc. There were men and women, children, families, youngsters, middle-aged and elderly people – a marvellous mixture. In a fair field with merchant tents outside the city I yesterday talked to among others a Danish woman called Tina and her Swedish boyfriend Markus who lives in Rosengård, Malmoe. Tina is Danish, but her mother is Jewish and she also has Persian influence in her family background. Another interesting man was the swarthy Viking Noel from London who has enacted Viking warrior for seven years, among other places here. Noel though has his roots in Sri Lanka. There are cemicircular defenceworks of earth and wood which enclose the 23 houses, fields and sacred places inside. When one enters the little city through the South Gate you have a food bar and Thingshöll Lane to the right which leads to Thinghöll. A “thing” was a quarterly district-court session where chieftains, wise men and other people in the region used to gather for discussions and solving conflicts. To the left inside the gates you see the waters of Öresund and Foot Bay. There’s a simple cottage belonging to an archer near the water, a smoke house, a tannery and a cottage for a rather wealthy minor chieftain. A bit up to the right there are e.g. magnificent houses belonging to Sven the Juror and Peter the Scribe. On the far side of the main street you see a wooden tower on a small hill from which you survey the surroundings in all directions. Inside one of the houses near the water I met a Norwegian Viking who’s real name is Georg Olafr Reydarson, but here called Georg Viking. He may be reached at email@example.com and facebook.com/georgviking. He also told me about another Viking Market in Vestlandet, western Norway, 200 kilometres from the coast and 140 kilometres from the city of Bergen. That site is called Gudvangen. Georg was an elderly man with a big beard, white tunic, yellow trousers and a fur hat. Inside the house he sat down in the high seat and placed his sword left of it. Also other people were in that house, both men and women, mainly from Norway.
Different things are arranged at the out-door museum. There are games and pedagogic shows for the children, guided tours by knowledgeable archeologists, historians and other skilled people. You may enter the tower and watch the view from the top and see how guards may have felt when they scrutinized the area in search of dangers and other things. This is very near the area I mentioned in my text “What’s in a name?”. The area in ancient times referred to as The Dangerous Island/Dangerous Peninsula because of the treacherous waters outside the south-west tip of what’s now called Skåne. You may read more about this in that text. You can go into the houses and watch what life may have looked like 1000 years ago, talk to the dressed-up inhabitants, the craftsmen and merchants. Viking warriors enacted battles and described the usage of the armoury from those days, and all in a very pedagogic and clear way. To the left after the entry to the entire museum complex there’s a building where you might see real artefacts found from that era, see a film about the village, Viking life and buy postcards if you like.
In the beginning I mentioned the battle of Foteviken on June 4th 1134. What happened then and why? Denmark in these days had a down-period after their glorious rule under Canute the Great, who also was king of England 100 years earlier. After him followed nine kings in Denmark all belonging to the dynasty of Thrugotsen. In 1131 Canute the Great’s grandson Niels ruled Denmark. He had a son called Magnus who also was his crown-prince. The problem was that Niels’ predecessor was another kinsman called Erik Ejegod who also had a son named Erik. That Erik was Niels’ paternal nephew. Erik thought that since his father Erik Ejegod had ruled the country he was the lawful heir of the throne, so he had begun to oppose and fight the now ruling king Niels. Erik Eriksson settled down in Skåne/Scania, made the province independant of Denmark and began to rule Skåne as a local king. That same year in 1131 prince Magnus got married in Roskilde on Zeeland/Själland, and encouraged by the Swedish queen Ulfhild began a quarrel with one of the guests, Knud Lavard, brother of Erik Eriksson of Skåne. Knud Lavard was an influential man who guarded the southern region of Denmark, but also had become a regional king in Sönderjylland, and vasall to his father-in-law, the German emperor Lothar. Two weeks after the quarrel Magnus Nielsön killed Knud Lavard by cleaving his head in twain with his sword and his fellow-conspirators thrusting their spears into the dying Knud. That assasination led to civil war in Denmark. The old archbishop Asker since 1089 and who had given the order of building Lund Cathedral in south-west Skåne was first quite cold and indifferent for the fight between the kings. But something happened that changed that. The early Danish church belonged originally to the archbishopric of Hamburg-Bremen in northern Germany, but had now made itself more independent. In these days there was a Pope in Rome and also an opposing Pope named Innocentius in Germany. Danish king Niels became friends with the German Emperor and the opposing Pope Innocentius. Then suddenly archbishop Asker in Lund got a letter from Innocentius which said that he might have the right to continue calling himself archbishop, but that his successors could “only” be called bishops and be subordinate to Bremen. This vexed Asker and he sent a political writ the next day to Innocentius where he from now on declared his allegiance to the Pope in Rome. King Niels of Denmark was a true friend of his German allies and invited many to Denmark. Lots of Danes hated this and killed many Germans, in particularly in Roskilde, which then was the Danish Capital City. Because of his favours for the Germans king Niels lost many Danish allies and trust among the native locals.
Scanian king Erik Eriksson and archbishop Asker prepared themselves for war. Fortresses and defence-walls were built, mercenaries from Germany were hired to fight, peasant soldiers were rallied from Skåne, Halland and Blekinge and Erik also instructed his life-guard soldiers, the so called housecarls. On the opposite side of Öresund/The Strait between the Peninsulas king Niels prepared a double attack on Skåne: one on Lund and also an invasion in the south-west corner. On June 1st 1134 king Niels and his Danish troups attacked Lund, but failed. They had to retreat and go back to Själland/Zeeland and prepare a new attack with their extra forces, and the Royal fleet of more modern “koggs”, instead of the older Viking longboats. On June 4th 1134 the fleet was seen on Öresund, but the scouts of king Erik in Höllviken and Foteviken had warned the Scanian king. When king Niels and his armies of soldiers from Zeeland/Själland, Jutland/Jylland and some other Danish islands came ashore in Foteviken they only had reached a slight bit on the way to Vellinge before king Erik attacked. In the front was king Erik Eriksson, heavily armed German cavalry mercenaries, his own fierce Scanian housecarls, many local men on horseback and an immense peasant infantery. King Erik’s cavalry numbered ca 400 men. On the Danish side also several bishops participated: Peder of Roskilde, Tore of Ribe and Kettil of Vendsyssel. Prince Magnus was a fierce fighter, but that didn’t help. Because of the heavy Scanian attack the Danes were pressed back to the ships in Foteviken and lined up in the shoaling water on the shelving beach. Since king Erik’s army was so ruthless in its attacks the Danes had nowhere to go but further out in the water. The Scanians had a heatherclad heath and a forest behind them, with more troups waiting on the ouskirts of the woods, and therefore got the upper-hand. The Danish soldiers climbed back onto their ships, but they became so densely crowded in the chaotic panic that those aboard began chopping off the hands of those soldiers in the water who tried to climb aboard. This from hindering the ships from capsizing and sink. Foteviken and the shore was filled with dead and dying bodies, and the water turned red from all the blood. Men screaming from agony of death and fear, men drowning, being pushed or pulled under the water, throats cut and guts spilled out in a ghastly mess of human body parts. Prince Magnus fought like a berserker, but died alongside bishop Peder from Roskilde, all the bishops save one from Jutland, and the Swedish bishop Henrik. Archbishop Asker in Lund didn’t fight though because of his old age. We don’t know for sure how many was killed that day, but the estimation of at least 3000 has been made.
After the battle of Foteviken king Niels and the surviving men sailed back to Zeeland. He didn’t dare though going back to Roskilde because of an on-going uprising against him, so he went to Nästved in the southern part of Zeeland. From there the king carried on to Hedeby on southern Jutland. But the local rulers led by Knutsgillet, (friends and kinsmen of Knud Lavard), refused to let the king in and met him outside the city with drawn swords. Suddenly the old king Niels was hit by an arrow which went straight through his neck. The 70-year-old king fell dead to the ground.
Now Erik Eriksson, king of Skåne/Scania, also became king of the entire Denmark. He now took the epithet Erik Emune, which means Eric the Eternally Remembered. During the fight against the now dead king Niels two rivalling dynasties, the Hvide/White Dynasty on Zeeland and the Svarte/Black Dynasty in Skåne for once had fought together. Now their rivalry began again. After having become king of all Denmark Erik Emune began favouring the Hvide Dynasty on Själland/Zeeland, instead of the Svarte Dynasty in Skåne. Erik Emune also became more and more cruel and paranoid. He had the two sons of his own halfbrother Harald Kesha drowned in Lake Slien, Slesvig by tying them to a mill-wheel and lower the boys beneath the water. Later the king’s brother and his family was caught in an ambush at their estate near Vejle where Erik Emune had Harald decapitated. Then he took Harald’s eight sons to Skåne and repeated the ghastly procedure. One of his brother’s sons managed though to escape, and became a king himself some years later. Erik Emune led a successfull crusade to the island of Rügen in northern Germany in 1135, an unsuccessfull war in southern Norway in 1136, but then returned to Lund which he had made Capital of Denmark under his rule. Despite this, since he became king of all Denmark Erik Emune became increasingly spiteful towards the Scanians and more accepting to the Zeelanders. After the death of archbishop Asker in Lund Erik Emune refused to accept his successor Eskil Christiernsön. As leader of his housecarls Erik Emune had a man of the Scanian Svarte Dynasty, called Plog Svarteskåning. On September 18th 1137 king Erik Emune held a quarterly district-court-session, (a “domarting” in Swedish) on his Royal estate in Lund or Ribe. When the king had given his arbitrations Plog Svarteskåning said: “I want to leave my service, My Lord, and now demand my payment”. The king turned to the treasurer and said: “Give him the silver for a year. That will make him satisfied.” The stern housecarl counted his silver pieces and raised his hand to speak. Then Plog Svarteskåning looked at the king who was leaning on his spear, raised his own lance and run it through the chest of Erik Emune who fell dead to the floor. Then the houscarl said: “King Erik has fallen. We chose the wrong king, Scanians – he fell for his foul deeds”. Then Plog Svarteskåning walked out without being attacked.
All wars are ugly, and lead to suffering and human intrigues. The story about the battle of Foteviken, the events leading up to it and what happened in the years following the battle is only one of a countless number of similar stories from the local and global history. What troubles me is the human tendency for cruelty as well as demeaning comments and ideas of other groups and individuals. It pleased me to see the mix of people from various corners of Sweden and the world at Foteviken Museum this weekend. I like both history and current affairs, and have no problems with my own local and national pride, but wish to see more understanding and positive co-operations and love between people, irrespective of background. We are all human beings walking this earth. Venerating the local history, maybe re-enacting it and presenting it for people in all ages and from various parts of our globe might be a very good thing, done with moderation and open-mindedness. Then it can be a good reminder of who we are and what we come from. The important thing though is to put it all in perspective and balance that pride with general inter-human understanding and affections. Visit the museum and learn more. Enlighten yourself and grow in awareness, self-reliance, pride and positive human interaction.
Anders Moberg, June 30th 2013