Saturday, January 30, 2010

Sweden celebrates the 800th birthday of Birger jarl

A jubilee celebration is being held for the 800th anniversary of the birth of Birger jarl, one of Sweden' most important medieval statesmen. Among the events planned for this year is the excavation of the tomb belonging to his son, King Magnus III.

The anniversary of the birth of Birger jarl will be inaugurated on 6 February at Bjälbo in Östergötland, where Birger Jarl was born 800 years ago. More than 130 specially invited guests and media representatives will be participating in vespers in the church, followed by dinner at Stadshotellet in Skänninge. The participants will include representatives of the three regions responsible for the Jubilee – Eastern Götaland, Western Götaland and Stockholm.

Later in the year, archaeologists and historians will open the tomb of Magnus III (also known as Magnus Ladulås) in the Riddarholm Church in Stockholm for scientific investigation. An application was submitted last year in connection with plans for the celebration in 2010 of the 800th anniversary of Birger Jarl’s birth. This decision has been taken by the Office of the Marshal of the Realm, in consultation with the County Administrative Board and the National Property Board. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, the Royal Academy of Letters, History and Architecture, the Church of Sweden and the National Heritage Board have also approved opening of the tomb.

The object of the investigation is to analyse the remains of the seven persons buried in the tomb in the period 1290-1360. Modern technology will make it possible to determine the relationship between Birger Jarl and other members of the Bjälbo dynasty.

Planning for the anniversary commenced in connection with the opening of Birger jarl’s grave at Varnhem in 2002, when it was established that Birger Jarl was born in about 1210, and not in 1200 as was previously believed.

Birger jarl, born Birger Magnusson (c. 1210 – 21 October 1266), was a Swedish statesman and a member of the House of Bjelbo. He played a pivotal role in the consolidation of Sweden while a jarl (earl) from 1248 until his death. It is believed that he played an important role in the establishment of the city of Stockholm during the 13th century.

"His name was Birger Magnusson," says Anja Praesto, Project Leader of the Museum Västra Götaland, "but he is always referred to as Birger jarl, thanks to his title jarl, which would be similar to earl. While his son, king Waldemar, was too young to be a regent (12 years) it was actually Birger who ruled the kingdom in the middle of the 13th century. Birger was apparently a well educated man with the right connections to the royal families, the noble families and the church. This made him a powerful man who was strategically using his power in many fields; he was successful in battles, in forming law and orders as well as in establishing important business deals. He was most likely a slug and a bit of cruel leader not always polished as a politician."

 Click here to listen to a report about Birger jarl from Sweden's Public Radio.

Anja Praesto adds that Sweden's interest in history, including its medieval history, has been growing: "Both archaeology and history from this period has a growing importance for the so called experience economy, involving both academics and tourism business. The excavations in oldest part of Varnhem in Västra Götaland for the last three years were open for public on a dayly basis which attracted thousands of people. The 13th century city Visby on the island of Gotland arrange the “Medieval week” for the in August and also smaller cities everywhere in Sweden arrange annual medieval markets and tournaments. The Swedish Channel 4 will provide the largest tv-series on history ever, 15 programmes with start in spring 2010. At least three of them will cover the viking and medieval eras."

Click here to go to the Facebook Group for Vi diggar Birger Jarl (in Swedish)

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