The 11th century writer and historian, Adam of Bremen described Gamla Uppsala (meaning ‘Old Uppsala’) in Sweden as a pagan site where a temple dedicated to Thor, Odin and Freyr stood. Adam wrote descriptively, if not always accurately, of the rituals performed there and of the temple itself.
Gamla Uppsala’s Pagan Past
The temple, adorned with a golden chain, was said to be a place where “heathens” would perform animal and human sacrifices , specifically in the sacred grove next to the temple. The trees were “considered to be divine”, and sacrifices —animal and man alike— were said to have been hanged from trees and left to rot, and elaborate ritual songs were sung.
With the coming of Christianity, any temple that might have existed was destroyed, and a church was built over it. Gamla Uppsala eventually became an archbishopric in the 12th century. Still, remnants of its pagan past continued to exist in the landscape of Gamla Uppsala. The ‘Royal Mounds’ endure to this day as a national symbol of Sweden.
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