Explore Linköping’s historic quarters
To think that streets and cobblestones can hold so many secrets and have so much to tell. That horrific executions, powerful rulers and great tragedies once happened here on the spot where we now stand. The Castle and Cathedral district in Linköping is just such a place. There are many ways you can explore the area – on your own, with a guided walking tour or via digital guides! However you choose to explore the stories surrounding the Castle and Cathedral district, we welcome you to an exciting journey that will take you back many hundreds of years in time.
116 meters stretching up into the heavens, Linköping Cathedral has watched over the town since the first decades of the 1100s. For over 800 years the cathedral has dominated the city skyline and has today become an important symbol for the city. No matter from which direction you approach Linköping, you will always have the cathedral as a signpost into the city centre.
Over the years the cathedral has undergone many reconstructions and is today very well preserved. Once inside the church you are met by a light and airy nave, where ornamentations and furnishings from different time periods will take your breath away. There is also a medieval crucifix, a grand baroque pulpit, an altarpiece by Henrik Sörenson, Lisa Bauer’s engraved Maria Window and other works of art from bygone ages that have survived through history to today’s modern times.
Saint Birgitta also visited Linköping Cathedral during her lifetime. It is said of the medieval crucifix from the 1300s, which still adorns the church nave today, that she knelt before it and appeared to be talking to Jesus. Birgitta’s maternal relatives had strong ties to Östergötland and Folkungarna. They contributed with large donations to the cathedral – but Brigitta also had many ties to the place. However, there is only evidence that she visited the church once during her lifetime.
The story of Linköping Castle stretches right back to the year 1149 – before it even became a castle. The building began when Bishop Gisle built himself an episcopal manor in limestone, the remains of which we can see today in the western section of the castle. The last bishop to live at the manor was no less than Hans Brask, the last catholic bishop in the Linköping Diocese to be appointed by the pope. But in the year 1527, Bishop Brask fled, when King Gustav Vasa carried out the reformation, and the bishop’s mansion was then extended into the royal castle we see today.
You may perhaps have heard of “The Battle of Stångebro” also known as ‘Sweden’s last civil war’ or ‘Sweden’s last religious war’. The battle took place just outside Linköping (Stångebro field to be precise) in the year 1598, when the Polish-Swedish King Sigismund was defeated by Duke Karl (son of King Gustav Vasa). Did you know that they held the State Councillors, who were supporters of Sigismund and thus traitors, as prisoners in the castle? The prisoners sat here right up until 1600 when the trial was held, which came to be known as “Sweden’s greatest legal scandal”. This is the backstory to what would become Linköping’s bloodbath, where heads rolled on the cobblestones of Stora Torget.
In January of 1700 Linköping suffered a tragedy – the great city fire broke out. All the central buildings were destroyed, but the castle and the cathedral survived completely intact. By this time the castle stood abandoned and dilapidated and was being used as the city goal. The eastern sections of the castle had been converted into a prison and stayed that way for 146 years!
In the year 1796 Linköping Castle had a new purpose – Linköping’s County Governors would take up residence here. Only 2 years after the transformation began, the first County Governors moved into the castle.
Today the castle is a historic museum where you can follow the building’s 900-year story. View the ecclesiastical silver, unique textiles or try on medieval clothes. Here you can also learn more about the story of the Battle of Stångebro, Linköping’s bloodbath, The Castle and Cathedral buildings and much more.
Learn more on your own
With Questropolis you can go on a journey of discovery around the historic parts of central Linköping. Download the App and solve the riddles to move forward in the game. This is a perfect family activity where you learn more about the town and discover things you might not have seen otherwise.
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Digital Town Walking Tour
Östergötland’s Museum offers four digital Town Walking Tours where you can delve deeper into Linköping’s history on your own. All you need is a mobile phone and a pair of headphones. Choose between four tours: ‘Medieval walking tour’, ‘Art tour’, ‘Architectural tour’ and ‘From burnt out village to modern city’. The walking tours take circa 60-90 minutes.
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Who was Bishop Hans Brask? We help you out with a few quick facts!
1. He was born in the year 1464, the son of Linköping’s mayor Per Brask.
2. In 1513 he was ordained the bishop of Linköping with the sanction of the pope in Rome himself!
3. The term "brasklapp" (brask note - meaning a hidden written release from liability) comes from Hans Brask. He was involved in the deposition of archbishop Gustav Trolle, and it was said that he left the note under his seal on the document, which in turn saved him from losing his head during the Stockholm bloodbath.
4. Brask strived for the independence of the church at the same time as he had an important role in the politics and the development of Sweden. Did you know for example that he drew the first plan for the Göta Canal?
5. He was a man of power and refused to let go of the Catholic faith – first a friend and then an enemy of King Gustav Vasa.
So what happened at the Linköping bloodbath and Battle of Stångebro? We explain this too!
1. In Linköping, or more precisely at Stångebro field, Sweden’s last civil war broke out in the year 1598. The battle came to be known in history as The battle of Stångebro.
2. The fight for the Swedish throne was between Duke Karl and his nephew Sigismund III King of Poland and King of Sweden.
3. Duke Karl won the battle and as a result took several of Sigismund’s followers prisoner and incarcerated them in Linköping Castle, from the autumn of 1598 to March 1600.
4. The trial was held at Linköping castle, where the four councillors Gustav and Stan Banér, Ture Bielke, and Erik Sparre were accused of treason against Duke Karl. They refused to beg for mercy and were sentenced to death.
5. They were doomed to lose honour, land and life. This meant that they would not be executed with a sword, as only noblemen were allowed that honour. However, an executioner’s sword is preserved that is deemed to be that which was used at the Linköping bloodbath.
What actually happened in the fire of Linköping? We unravel this with a few quick facts!
1. At the end of January 1700 a large part of Linköping burned down.
2. Farmhand Sven Nilsson had placed his lantern so badly that one of the horses kicked it over in the hay. The stable lay at the corner of Storgatan, where the Central Palatset is located today.
3. The farmhand tried to escape responsibility by going off to bed.
4. The wind was strong that evening which resulted in the fire spreading fast – nearly 150 houses burned down.
5. Sven was sentenced to hard labour – but while waiting for the transport he died under mysterious circumstances while in custody at Linköping Castle.
Bargains among the charming boutiques
The area around Linköping Castle and Cathedral is a bustling place today. Here you will also find a delightful selection of shops! Handicrafts in Östergötland offers unique arts and crafts – locally produced and durable! At Rudholms you will find interior décor and gifts. Welcome to shopping in these historic surroundings!
Don’t forget to feed yourself
Don’t forget to eat well to keep your energy level up during your journey through history! Many restaurants and cafés are located within the local thoroughfares where you can indulge in everything from a freshly brewed cup of coffee, to delicious food that is a treat for your taste buds.