Upon my arrival in Visby, the first building that caught my eyes was God’s terminal. Unlike other terminals elsewhere, this one is empty of people. I can only deduce that urghhlings do not have the necessary passport yet to use it. I asked my tour guide why Gotland is so named; no one knows, she replied. Yet, it is obvious to me this is God’s land. Visby in the old Norse language means Village of Sacrifices. In the 14th century, it was also known as Wi, the holy place, place of worship. Today, it is also known as the city of roses, or city of ruins (of churches).
God sacrificed his son for us as the only necessary sacrifice, yet in Gotland, the sacrifices continued for much of medieval time. Visby was once upon a time the most important city of the Hanseatic League, surpassing even Stockholm and Bergen in significance. An ideal stopover for Baltic trade, its strategic location bolstered its power and economy for centuries. Where there is business and wealth, there will also be churches and taxes. The first civil war, in 1288, was the result of revolt by the farmers and merchants against the heavy taxes levied on behalf of the church. The Visby City Wall took over two centuries to build, to keep out would-be invaders and marauders. According to local folklore, King Valdemar IV of Denmark captured the town in 1361 by bribing the local merchants. Left beyond the wall of their city, the city’s defenders were massacred. Today, many ghosts roam the streets of Visby, they have since the 80’s, i.e. 1280’s. My tour guide reminded me to stamp three times on the ground, to appease them.
In the Medieval age, many of the churches were burned down. The oldest, a Romanesque church, St Clement’s church was named after Pope Clement 1, martyred in the 2nd century, by being thrown into the sea with an anchor around his neck. The early Popes weren’t as powerful as I thought, Jesus Christ’s influence should have lasted longer than the 2nd century.
Built in the 13th century on the same square were The Drotten church for the Holy Trinity, and the St Lawrence church. The latter was inspired by German ecclesiastical architecture, it resembles the Byzantine churches of the east. St Lawrence, whom the Roman emperor Valerian martyred in the 3rd century, was roasted alive on a grid.
In Visby, Gotland. In God’s land, let us pause in silence. I am afraid there is no silence here in the city of abandoned churches, the “holy place of worship”. With so much evidence of destruction, greed, treachery and massacres, I am silenced by the screams of ghosts who still roam the city, roasted or grilled. This urghhling shall pass God’s Terminal without entering it.