Ruined Gotland churches and a history lesson for English majors

This picture was taken as the sun began to set against one of the many medieval church ruins on Gotland. Gotland, lying between Sweden and Russia, is surprisingly warm and sunny—a golden land where historians now believe the Goths sprang from.

Although we’ve come to think of them as ‘Germanic’ people (as in, from Germany), in fact, if you read up on the Goths, you’ll find that they emigrated from Sweden, including the beautiful island of Gotland (which is all very interesting to English majors; or at least, it ought to be, since this is part of where our language comes from).

The name ‘Goth’ is derived from a similar word in Old Norse, and the “old Norse” were not Germans, they were Vikings (not all of whom were from Norway, it turns out).

The more time I’ve spent in Scandinavia, the more I’ve discovered seminal connections to the development of England and the English language, since the original Vikings who settled in France in 911 A.D. (later thought of as ‘northmen’ whose Norse beginnings helped create the word ‘Normandy’) begat the men who invaded England.

I always thought ‘the French’ invaded England; until I began to spend time in Scandinavia, I didn’t realise that in fact, William of Normandy was a descendent of the Viking invaders who formed a protection treaty with France’s ruler. In 911, a very scary time if you weren’t a Viking, the French essentially said to the Viking invaders, “Protect us from all other Viking raids and you can have this land.” And the rest eventually became English history
Blue Skies Over Medieval Church


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