- a city on the island of Gotland
- This article is about the city. For the ship, see Visby class corvette.
The name "Visby" comes from the Old Norse Vis, (genitive singular of Vi) meaning sacrificial place, and bær, meaning "farm" or "settlement". An alternate derivation would be from the Polish "wyspa" (pronounced "vis-pah") which means simply "island".
Its population is 22,236 (2005), and it is the seat of the Governor of Gotland County. Like other towns and cities in Sweden, Visby is not a political or administrative entity of its own. It forms an integral part of Gotland Municipality, of which it is the seat.
HistoryThe earliest history of Visby is uncertain, but it is known to have been a centre of merchandise around 900 AD. It was inhabited as early as the stone age, probably because of the access to fresh water and a natural harbour.
In the 12th century, Visby Cathedral, dedicated to Saint Mary, was constructed. It was reshaped in the 13th century to its current appearance, and was officially opened in 1225 by the bishop of the Swedish city of Linköping. Several other churches were also constructed in the ensuing centuries. The city flourished, thanks to the German Hanseatic League.
The work on the ring wall was likely begun in the 12th century. Around 1300 it was rebuilt to reach its current height, acquiring the characteristic towers, although some towers were not constructed until the 15th century. The ringwall is still largely intact.
In 1361, Gotland was conquered by Valdemar IV of Denmark and Visby became a Danish city. Important as it was, some setbacks occurred. In 1391, 1394 and 1398 it was taken and plundered by the Victual Brothers, pirates who sailed the Baltic Sea. In 1411, King Eric of Pomerania had the castle of Visborg constructed, and settled himself there for twelve years, during which the city virtually became a pirates nest, and the commerce halted. As of 1470, the Hanseatic League rescinded Visby's status as a Hanseatic town.
In 1525, the final blow came. The merchants of Visby were in a feud with Lübeck in what is now Germany. The Germans burned down all Visby's churches except the cathedral. The ruins have been preserved until this day, adding their gravity to the modern city.
Gotland was again conquered by Sweden in 1645 at the Treaty of Brömsebro, after 300 years of Danish occupation. The city developed slowly as things were left as they were. In the mid 18th century some attempts were made by Swedish government officials to improve living standards, but little was accomplished. Not until the early 19th century did Visby once again attract commerce and a harbour industry. At the same time - 1808 - Gotland was conquered by Russia, but was peacefully taken back by the swedes after only a couple of months.
Sights and eventsSome affectionately call Visby the "city of roses and ruins" and natives to the island often just say "town". Whether it lives up to that distinction among other old Swedish cities is debatable.
In the first week of July, Visby is the scene of the Almedalen Week (Almedalsveckan), an important meeting place for everyone involved in Swedish politics. During the week, representatives from the major political parties in Sweden take turns giving speeches in the Almedalen park.
In August the tourist season is at its peak. In week 32 from Sunday to Sunday the annual Medieval Week (Medeltidsveckan) is held. During this time regularly dressed tourists are outnumbered by people dressed in Medieval costumes. The festival started in 1984. There are a variety of events: music, jesters, theater, a medieval market, jousting tournaments and much more.
TransportVisby is linked to the mainland of Sweden by ferry and by airplanes. The three-hour ferry arrives from Oskarshamn near Kalmar and Nynäshamn near Stockholm.
MiscellaneousNear Visby there is the static inverter plant for the first HVDC interconnection of a windpark (HVDC Visby-Nas).
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