The island of Gotland off the eastern coast of Sweden was once a major trading center in European commerce. During the Middle Ages, Gotland and the German Hanseatic league saw unquestioned economic prosperity. With this prosperity, and the Christianity which had come to the island just a couple of centuries before, came the need for churches and cathedrals.
The island itself is home to hundreds of churches. Some are in ruins, others are in use. All are impressive structures. In particular, the largest city on the island, Visby, is home to several different ruins. Climb the still standing medieval city wall and you will be able to look out over the cityscape and pick out the different ruins.
Still standing, and in use, is St. Maria Cathedral, which was built as a church and dedicated as early as 1225 for the German traders in the area. In 1572 it became a cathedral. While visiting, I stumbled upon a choir practice. I was not alone. Several other tourists had made their way to the church and stood around in a semi-circle as the choir rehearsed.
Despite the beauty of St. Maria, I prefer ruins. Itâ€™s the romantic in me and luckily Visby has plenty to offer. My favorite is probably St. Nicolaus, if only because despite being a ruin, performances are still held every year in the old church. For the history nerd in me, there are few things better than watching live music in the skeletal ruins of a medieval church.
Considering that Visby, Gotland was a popular European destination nearly 800 years ago, it still has a lot going for it.