The rune stone of Jamtland
Runes i Sweden

Sven B F Jansson
Peter Foote

The rune stone at Frösön in Jamtland, nearby the bridge.
Photo: Bo Oscarsson.

Extract from Runes i Sweden, pages 119 - 120, about the rune stone of Jamtland:

"Rune stones can thus tell us that churches existed in Sweden in the latter part of the Viking Age, though of course they are not our only sources of information about this early church-building.

It should be observed at this point that the change in burial customs may not always have been so deeply felt after all. The fact is that in a surprising number of cases the site chosen for the new enclosed churchyard adjoins some ancient family burial ground with all its traditional associations. In such cases, perhaps, the break in custom did not seem so definitive, at any rate for the family on whose land the church was built.

The conversion of a whole province, round about 1020-30, finds unambiguous record on the stone that stands on Frösön (Jamtland): austmathr kuthfastaR sun lit rai... thino aukirua bru thisauk h[an li]t kristna eatalant asbiurn kirthi bru triun raist auk tsain runar thisaR "Östman, Gudfast's son, had this stone raised and this bridge made, and he had Jamtland made Christian. Åsbjörn made the bridge. Tryn and Sten cut these runes. "

It seems likely that the conversion of Jamtland was the result of a decision taken at the assembly of the Jamtlanders, where Östman perhaps held office as law-man. In that case, we should have a parallel, on a modest scale, to the momentous decision of the Icelandic Althing, when this national assembly adopted Christianity in the year 1000, not many decades before the conversion of Jamtland.

Denmark had become Christian some time earlier, probably c. 960 or not long after, as is shown by the famous jelling stone: "King Harald commanded these monuments to be made in memory of Gorm, his father, and of Tyre, his mother -that Harald who won all Denmark and Norway and made the Danes Christian".

Information preserved on contemporary rune stones thus enables us to draw some conclusions concerning the advance of Christianity in Sweden. Christian influence is also readily discernible in the personal names on the stones, which even in the missionary period show many new names of Christian provenance alongside the traditional pagan stock-Johan, Borvid, Nikulas and others.

One scans the inscriptions in vain for any evidence of violent conflict between the old faith and the new. On the contrary, they give the impression that the conversion was a rather tranquil process. From the transition period between heathendom and Christianity we have only one Swedish inscription which invokes a pagan deity. The Velanda stone (Västergötland) was set up by Tyrvi in memory of her husband, Ogmund, and it was put expressly under Thor's protection. The inscription, probably carved about the year 1000, ends: thur: ulki Thorr vigi "May Thor consecrate".

Sven B.F. Jansson

Note: Among the several thousands of rune stones, there are only two that tells us about a country converting to Christianity; the rune stone in Jamtland and the rune stone in Denmark.
Bo Oscarsson

Read more about the rune stone of Jamtland in English

In Swedish, with a picture of the rune stone

Back to History of Jamtland in brief
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Latest update: 15/9/2001