Following Arn or pilgrimage to Varnhem

History is a unique substance: you can pass it by almost every day with no noticing, and it can shine in its glory if you will only know where to look. The province of Västra Göteland with its center in Göthenburg is actually has a large territory and includes 49 municipalities. And many of them worth to be visited. This weekend I bought a 24-hours round ticket covering transportation around the province, and took a morning train to Varnhem. Seven pilgrims started a small adventure.

Varnhem Abbey
Varnhem Abbey

Varnhem is a very small city, which keeps a memory of ancient times. Varnhem is the location of the oldest known stone church in Sweden, erected in the 1040s at the latest. Later in 1150 the Varnhem Abbey was established not far from the older church, and the Abbey church is still in use.  The place experiences a new wave of attention after the Swedish movie about the Knight Templar, telling the story of Arn Magnusson, who portrayed as living in Varnhem. If you are a fan of history I would definitely recommend you to visit this place. The trilogy about Arn was written by Jan Guillou. Although the veracity of the Arn’s character is questionable but the history of the place has no doubt.

Pathway of Arn
Pathway of Arn

And Varnhem Church is the place where the family of Birger Jarl lie buried. This name is well known in Sweden. And the Jarl Birger Magnusson, Swedish statesman has played a pivotal role in the consolidation of Sweden. So, why so important person was buried in Varnhem? Actually the territory of modern Skara municipality where Varnhem is located was the center of Christianity in Sweden from the 10th century. With the Christianization of Sweden, around 1000 AD, Skara (aprox. 17 km from Varnhem)   became the seat of the bishop and the religious center for the ensuring centuries.

It was no rain and we decided as modern pilgrims to walk to the nearest big city – Axvall that is located between Varnhem and Skara. But our plan was not succeed. On the way we turned to another small village where we found a nice surprise, old church and small house nearby Sara’s stuga. We were about to have a lunch, when almost from nowhere came a man, and offered to us to have rest in the stuga. It was a very small house with an extremely low ceiling. It was the house of Sara, who was a servant in the church, and had a long and interesting life. We had a chance to read a bit about her when lunching.

Gravfält, The Iron Age
Gravfält, The Iron Age

It was a lovely time in touch with history and nature. On the way back we choose another path and after several kilometers we saw a sign pointing an ancient buring of the Iron Age, around 500 BC. Surely, we went there. On the first glance there were only stones of different sizes and shapes. But observing it from the distant point on the top of a hill it was possible to see that stones were organized in several circles. And in each of them the stones were of the similar size. Very interesting!

Our pilgrimage came to an end, but I will keep memories about history of the place. And thanks to my coursemate Barbara Moss, Priest in Charge of the St’ Andrew’s Church for organizing this memorable journey.

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