Gamla Stan — the Old Town in Stockholm

I spent a large portion of my time in Stockholm wandering the city’s Old Town. This particular medieval centre (because every European city has one) dates to the 1200s and has the archetypal weathered buildings, cobblestone streets, stone-faced restaurants, haunted cellars, and a plethora of people.

I arrived in Gamla stan during the “slow” season and at times streets were empty. I imagine, however, that most are packed in the summer when the days are long and warm. Even in the slow season, good (and recommended) restaurants were packed.

The original town centre is in the middle of Gamla stan and is named Stortorget; I visited here on the 493rd anniversary of a November 8th bloodbath (known as the Stockholm Massacre). The characters in this piece of history are:

* Christian II (King of Denmark and Norway)
* Gustavus Trolle (Archbishop of Uppsala)
* Sten Sture the Elder (Regent of Sweden 1470-1503)
* Svante Nilsson (Regent of Sweden 1504-1512)
* Sten Sture the Younger (Regent of Sweden 1512-1520)
* Kristina Gyllenstierna (wife of Sten Sture and great-granddaughter of King Charles VIII of Sweden)
* Gustav Vasa (King of Sweden 1523-1560)

During the era of the Kalmar Union (1397–1523), Denmark, Norway and Sweden formed an independent/personal union with each other. During this time, all three countries were under one monarchy but each was self-ruled by a regent. The King of Denmark was the self-proclaimed King of the Union.

Towards the end of the Kalmar era, Sweden became increasingly dissatisfied with the decisions made by the King of Denmark and plotted to become an independent nation. This started with Sten Sture the Elder and continued with his son Svante Nilsson. When Nilsson died in 1512, the Union proposed that Gustavus Trolle take the position of regent (Trolle had formed an allegiance with Christian II) instead of Nilsson’s son. However, Sten Sture the Younger used his connections to raise an army and fought to retain his position as regent. He then had the archbishop deposed and imprisoned before continuing his fight for an independent Sweden.

This angered the King of Denmark who responded by invading Stockholm. During the Battle of Bogesund, Sten Sture was killed. His wife Kristina Gyllenstierna took command of the army and resisted the Danish for months before surrendering when the people of Stockholm began to starve.

Christian crowned himself King of Sweden, rounded up all the nobles and clergy who supported Sten Sture and had them executed in the Stortorget for deposing the pro-Danish Archbishop Gustav Trolle. According to historians, the final death toll was 82 people. It’s strange that so many people were killed for deposing a priest… and it’s said that the list of people to be executed came from the Archbishop himself.

Both Christian II and Trolle were defeated 3-years later by Gustav Vasa in the Swedish War of Liberation. Vasa was the son of Erik Johansson, one of the victims from the Stockholm Bloodbath; he put together an army after hearing about the death of the Swedish nobles. Both Christian II and Trolle were driven out of Sweden and spent the rest of their lives in Denmark; the later became commonly known as a traitor to Sweden.

Vasa became the Gustav I of Sweden and founder of the House of Vasa. When the new King asked the Pope to instate another Archbishop of Uppsala, the Pope refused to state this position belonged to Trolle. This caused a rift that ended any control that Rome had over the Swedish Church.

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