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Mästerby church
Mästerby church
Mästerby is located in Gotland
Coordinates: 57°28′12″N 18°18′14″E / 57.47000°N 18.30389°E / 57.47000; 18.30389Coordinates: 57°28′12″N 18°18′14″E / 57.47000°N 18.30389°E / 57.47000; 18.30389
Country Sweden
Province Gotland
County Gotland County
Municipality Gotland Municipality
 • Total 22.97 km2 (8.87 sq mi)
Population (2014)[2]
 • Total 181
Time zone CET (UTC+1)
 • Summer (DST) CEST (UTC+2)
Website Mästerby

Mästerby, is a settlement on the Swedish island of Gotland. Formerly a socken,[3] on 1 January 2016, it was reconstituted into the administrative area Mästerby District.[4] When King Valdemar IV of Denmark and his troops invaded Gotland in 1361, they met the first line of resistance at the Battle of Mästerby.


Mästerby has been a settlement since prehistoric times. A great number of archeological finds have been made here along with grave fields, stone mounds and traces of houses dating from the Iron, Bronze and Viking Ages as well as from Medieval times.[5] The finds also include a number of metal objects, jewelry and coins with the oldest coin a Roman dinar dated 160–180.[5][6]

The name Mästerby originates from the Old Gutnish word maister meaning "master" or "foremost". In 1270, the name was written as "Mestraby", "Meystbye" in the 14th century and "Mesteby" in 1523.[5][7]

The courthouse for southern Gotland was situated at Mästerby, along with a gallows and a place for corporal punishment from 1000 until the end of the 16th century. The last execution was the hanging of Anders Botelson from Gothem in 1698, for stealing from a church.[8]


Mästerby is the name of the socken, now district. It is also the name of the small village surrounding the medieval Mästerby Church,[9] sometimes referred to as Mästerby kyrkby. It is situated on central Gotland. The Mästerby parish (not to be confused with the socken/district) was formerly independent and in 2012, it was incorporated into the joint parish of Sanda, Västergarn and Mästerby.[10]

One of the asteroids in the Asteroid belt, 10813 Mästerby, is named after the settlement.[11]


Mästerby consists of a number of farms spread over a larger area.[12]

Battle of Mästerby[edit]

Battle of Mästerby[13]
Part of the Battle of Visby
Fornsalen - Invasion 1361 - Schädel mit Pfeilspitzen.jpg
The skull of a participant in the 1361 campaign, shot by three arrows.
Date 25 July 1361
Location Mästerby, Gotland
Result Danish victory, leaving the road to Visby open.
Gotland vapen.svg Gotland Flag of Denmark.svg Denmark
Commanders and leaders
Gotlandic farmers Valdemar IV of Denmark
about 1,500 2,600
Casualties and losses
1,500 unknown

When Danish troops invaded Gotland in 1361, they met the first line of resistance at Fjäle mire. This resulted in the Battle of Mästerby on the 25–26 July 1361. Through battlefield archaeology and some written accounts, archeologists have pieced together a likely course of events.[13]

The Battle[edit]

In an effort to stop the Danish soldiers from advancing, the bridge at Ajmunds was destroyed. The Danes tried to cross the stream, but this proved to be a tactical error since the banks were very steep, making it hard for the heavily armed soldiers to advance. They therefore retired and sent out scouts to search for a better crossing, while the main body of troops rested for the night. Finally the Danes found a crossing a kilometre to the northeast at Fjäle mire, where they crossed. The Gotlandic farmers who were trying to stop the invaders had hoped that the Danish soldiers with their heavy armour and equipment would have a hard time moving about in the mire, but the summer had been hot and the mire was almost dry. The failure of the plan resulted in a massacre, about 1,500 Gotlandic farmers and other local inhabitants being killed by the Danish invaders.[13]


A couple of decades after the battle a memorial for the fallen Gotlanders was built at Grens farm. The memorial is in the shape of a celtic cross, on Gotland known as a "Branch cross" or a "Ring cross".[13]

Fragments of an inscription can be found on the cross. The legible text is Anno Domini MCCCLXI (Roman numerals for "1361") and finally the word Iacobi (Latin for Saint Jacob and his day in the calendar). From this it was deduced that the battle took place on the day of Jacobi, 25 July 1361.[13]

At the Ajmunds bridge stands another memorial honoring the Gotlanders who died defending their freedom. The stone was raised in 1961, 600 years after the battle.[14]


A priest in Mästerby parish, Hans Nielssön Strelow, wrote the Cronica Guthilandorium ("Chronicle of Gotland") in 1633. This is the only remaining written account mentioning the battle but written 300 years after the event. The chronicle was the only document remaining after a fire at the Mästerby vicarage in 1735.[15]

The legend written in the Chronicle states that King Valdemar Atterdag's forces landed at the Kronvall fishing village on the main island opposite Lilla Karlsö and Stora Karlsö. They were opposed by Gotlandic farmers at Fjäle mire. The fighting went on for two days between 25–26 July 1361, outside Mästerby. King Valdemar erected a cross to honour the brave farmers and moved on to Visby.[15]

Historians realized that it was unlikely that King Valdemar would have honoured his fallen enemies. But the battlefield team from the Swedish National Heritage Board, archeologist Maria Lingström and the Mästerby History Society decided to investigate if there was any truth to the legend.[16]

Battlefield archaeology[edit]

Investigation of the site, led by Lindström, has been conducted every year since 2006. Up until 2011, hundreds of finds related to the battle have been made. The distribution and nature of the finds indicate that the main battle occurred in a sandy part of the mire where Danish troops had been able to cross and advance on Mästerby.[16][17]

The finds from the investigations are on display at a small museum in Mästerby, run by the Mästerby Historical Society,[18] and at the Gotland museum in Visby.[19]

The battle has been reenacted by participants from historical societies from a number of countries, in connection with the reenactment of the Battle of Visby.[20]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Gunnar Carlquist, ed. (1947–1955). Svensk Uppslagsbok (2 ed.). Malmö: Förlagshuset Norden. Retrieved 4 June 2014. 
  2. ^ "Gotland i siffror 2015" [Gotland in numbers 2015]. www.gotland.se. Gotland Municipality. Retrieved 25 May 2016. 
  3. ^ The exact extent of the socken, now district, can be obtained by clicking on Kartinställningar and check the Socken box in the menu of this map from the Swedish National Heritage Board database.
  4. ^ "Förordning om district" [Regulation of districts] (PDF). Ministry of Finance. 17 June 2015. Retrieved 24 May 2016. 
  5. ^ a b c "Historia". www.masterbyhembygdsforening.wordpress.com. Mästerby Hembygdsförening. Retrieved 4 June 2014. 
  6. ^ "Mästerby". www.historiska.se. Historiska museet. Retrieved 4 June 2014. 
  7. ^ Wahlberg, Mats (2003). Svenskt ortnamnslexikon. Uppsala: Institutet för språk och folkminnen. Stockholm: Wahlström & Widstrand. ISBN 91-7229-020-X. 
  8. ^ Sandström, Gunnar. "Landsarkivets Avskriftssamling". Ur domboken. Förteckning över dödsdomar och avrättningar på Gotland. Retrieved 5 June 2014. 
  9. ^ Lagerlöf, Erland; Svahnström, Gunnar (1973). Gotlands kyrkor [Gotland's Churces] (in Swedish). Stockholm: Rabén & Sjögren. pp. 213–215. ISBN 91-29-41035-5. LIBRIS 7232718. 
  10. ^ "Mästerby". www.ne.se. Nationalencyklopedin. Retrieved 30 May 2016. 
  11. ^ "JPL Small-Body Database Browser". NASA. Retrieved 2008-05-04. 
  12. ^ Enderberg, Bernt. "1361 i Mästerby". www.guteinfo.com. Guteinfo. Retrieved 3 June 2014. 
  13. ^ a b c d e Lingström, Allan. "Invasionen-fakta och teorier". www.masterby1361.se. Mästerby1361. Retrieved 3 June 2014. 
  14. ^ Enderborg, Bernt. "Ajmunds bro – Gotlands nyckel". www.guteinfo.com. Guteinfo. Retrieved 5 June 2014. 
  15. ^ a b "Källor till 1361 års strider i Mästerby". www.masterby1361.se. Mästerby1361. Retrieved 5 June 2014. 
  16. ^ a b "Projektidé". www.masterby1361.se. Mästerby1361. Retrieved 5 June 2014. 
  17. ^ "Mästerby 1361 – kampen om vägen till Visby, pdf". www.slagfalt.se. Riksantikvarieämbetet. p. 67. Retrieved 5 June 2014. 
  18. ^ "Ett nytt museum invigt i Mästerby.". Ett nytt museum invigt i Mästerby. Mästerby hembygdsförening. Retrieved 5 June 2014. 
  19. ^ "1361 – Striden om Gotland". www.gotlandsmuseum.se. Gotlands Museum. Retrieved 5 June 2014. 
  20. ^ Kalström, Tullan. "Battle of Wisby 1361". www.battleofwisby.com. Battle of Wisby 1361. Retrieved 4 June 2014. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Lingström, Maria (2008). "Mästerby 1361-fortsatt sökande efter striden mellan gutar och danskar.". Dokumentation av fältarbetsfasen 2007:3, arkeologisk undersökning. (in Swedish). Riksantikvarieämbetet, Avd. för arkeologiska undersökningar, UV Syd. 
  • Lingström, maria (2007). "Mästerby 1361- gutarnas strid mot Valdemar Atterdag.". Dokumentation av fältarbetsfasen 2008:1, arkeologisk undersökning. (in Swedish). Riksantikvarieämbetet, Avd. för arkeologiska undersökningar, UV Syd. 
  • Moberg, Ivar (1938). "Gotland um das Jahr 1700. Eine kulturgeografische Kartenanalyse.". Meddelanden från geografiska institutet vid Stockholms högskola. (in German). 
  • Strelow, Hans Nielsson (1633). Cronica Guthilandorum. (in Latin). 
  • Säve, C (1859). "Sägner om konung Valdemar på Gotland". Folke, Et nordisk Tidsskrift I. (in Swedish). 

External links[edit]