Battle of Visby

There are glorious battles for their victories, for example, the famous "Battle of the Ice" and the Battle of Kulikovo. There are battles “not glorious”, but rich in finds on the battlefield - this is, for example, the place of the battle at the Zolotaryov settlement near Penza. There are battles renowned for both the result and the fact that they were depicted by talented artists - this, of course, is the Battle of Grunwald 1410 of the year. There are many other battles, in one way or another glorified, and on their background, the battle of Visby is renowned in a very specific way. She is mentioned by everyone who writes about stories weapons and armor, but nobody is interested in either its result or its value. Only one single fact is interesting, namely that it was, and that those killed in it ... were buried! And all together in a mass grave, and in addition in all his equipment!

Armor from the grave at Visby. Gotland Museum.

Battle of Visby

The building of the museum, where all this is exposed.

It is known that the Middle Ages was poor in iron. Iron armor and weapons were valued, they were not thrown onto the battlefield, but collected, if not for themselves, then for sale. And then buried in the ground "a treasure." Why? Well, we can only guess about this today, but we should tell more about the battle itself.

The gates of the city of Visby and the fortress wall.

The same tower and gate from the opposite side.

It all started with the fact that July 22 1361, the Danish king Waldemar IV, moved his army to the west coast of the island of Gotland. The inhabitants of the island paid taxes to the Swedish king, but the population of the city of Visby was very multinational, and the Russians, Danes, and Germans, and all traded there, lived! From 1280, the city was a member of the famous Hanseatic League, which, however, led to the fact that the people of Visby were on their own, and the Gotland peasants served them and ... didn’t really like them. Well, people lived well and, according to the peasants, did nothing. But they ... The song is familiar, is not it? And it came to direct hostility between the townspeople and the villagers. And it came to the swords and, although the peasants called themselves to the aid of the Estonian knights, the townspeople beat them in 1288 year! And they began to live and live happily, but the local peasants had already laid their eyes on their wealth (now “peasants are peasants” - the movie “The Last Relic”), and now the king of Denmark.

Battle of Visby. Figure by Angus McBride. Surprisingly, for some reason, he wrapped one of the soldiers in sheepskin, although ... it happens in July.

So that's where the Danish troops came from on the island and why they were moving towards Visby. Robbery at the time people lived! Some have, while others do not! So, we must go and take away !!! Here, however, local peasants got mixed up in the matter. It's one thing when you rob your rich, and quite another when you come to loot, and besides, even foreigners. On the very first day of the invasion, two clashes occurred between the Danish army and the peasants. The very next day, the peasants gathered from everywhere and attacked the Danes, but only the forces were unequal, and they killed from 800 to 1000 people of the local peasant militia. But ... brave peasants did not surrender, did not give up, and July 27 ... gave the aggressors a fight in 300 meters from the city wall! And then about 1800 people died in them, but how many Danes died is unknown. In any case, the dead were among them, but there were few of them. Archaeologists were able to find only a few items - for example, the purse and armor of a certain Dane from the family of Roord of Friesland. As noted above, the battle went on right at the very walls of the city, but ... the city militia didn’t work outside the wall and did not support "their" battles, and this cynicism was embarrassing to many

Plate armor from Visby.

But the reason for such a relationship was, and she was serious. The fact is that the island’s peasants had another interesting “business” besides agriculture. They robbed the merchant ships crashing on the coastal cliffs, sailing to Visby, and the people who escaped from them were simply killed, having previously robbed them to the skin. This, by the way, explains the good armament that the "peasants" had, and which they could not have by definition. But if for many years you have been robbing merchant ships thrown ashore by a storm, then ... you will have both cloth, velvet, and a good sword, and chainmail, even if you are a threefold peasant.

Coat-of-Plates is a typical armor from the grave at Visby.

Interestingly, in the end, the Gotlands lost as many people in this battle as the French lost in the famous Battle of Poitiers in the 1356 year.

Then the fun began. Do you think that the inhabitants of the city were under siege? Not at all! Having watched from the walls and towers for the defeat of the hated peasants, they hurried to surrender to the king of Denmark and in order to save the city and their property from being plundered. It is believed that they gave the winners almost half of their wealth, and this “payout” itself became a truly legendary event, although it is not known for certain whether it really was or not, and even if it was, how it went. True, the Danes, though they took a tribute, but still several churches and monasteries looted. Then King Valdemar appointed several sheriffs to control the city of Visby, left them a detachment of soldiers, gave the citizens a security letter in which he confirmed their rights and liberties (!), And ... left the island.

King Waldemar collects tribute from the people of Visby. Painting CG Helkvist (1882).

A year later (what was expected, unknown!), He added to his titulary also the title of King of Gotland. But then the king of Sweden, Albrecht, said that the island is part of his possessions, that his right is indestructible, and if Valdemar like himself allows himself, then let his swords speak. The island was so easily brought back under the control of Sweden that it was obvious that Denmark’s rule was not solid. And only in 1376, under Queen Margaret I, Gotland became officially owned by Denmark.

Another version of plate armor found in the grave at Visby.

King Albrecht became involved in the 1389 civil war of the year, in which Queen Margaret supported the "rebels" and forced him to abdicate. But ... the king is king, so he was given the island of Gotland with the "capital" of Visby, which at that time was captured by ... the most real robbers - the Vitali brothers, and ... they supported him and recognized his rights. Such a “touching friendship” between aristocrats and brigands happened in those times. They were knocked out of the island only in 1408.


Well, now about the most important thing. And the main thing in this battle is that those who died in the battle were buried in common graves. And no one had ever removed any armor or clothes from the warriors. They were simply simply thrown into the pits and covered with earth from above. Why this happened - for sure nobody knows, but there are two versions that explain this oddity.

Another gauntlet.

Historian John Keegan, for example, believes that the cause was the July heat and the fear of the plague, which, as it was then believed, could have come from “evil miasms” and a large number of corpses (approximately 2000 people were found!). This is the first reason.

The second could be the result of banal disgust: the Danes seized such prey that they were too lazy to mess with corpses swollen with heat, scrape the blood, the brains and dirt from the chopped armor, and that is why they hurried all the dead to bury. But from the very field they collected almost all the iron, so there is simply nothing on it.

Chain hood.

Anyway, and for archaeologists this unusual “necropolis” became a real gift. It was possible to find out very interesting things, which no chronicles then reported. For example, that a third of the island’s army consisted of ... minors and older people. That is, the weakest and most inept died, and the strong and skillful ... ran away!

The study of bone remains in five mass graves outside the walls of the city provided rich material for analyzing combat damage, but most importantly, archaeologists obtained many well-preserved specimens of military equipment. Found in the graves were chain mail, chain mail hoods, lamellar mittens of more than ten types (!) And even 25 pieces of quite well-preserved plate armor. Moreover, at least one of them was made from plates made in Russia, with which Visby traded and actively traded.

1400 Sword, possibly Italian. Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Very interesting are the injuries that the warriors who fell in the Battle of Vizby received. Judging by them, the actions of the soldiers in it were very organized, which speaks of their training and discipline. The Danes acted - it was the Danes, because their victims were buried, something like this: one Danish strikes the Gotland with his sword or ax, standing right in front of him. He raises his shield, repel the blow, but at the same time his left side opens and that’s where the other Dane struck his blow. That is, the Danish warriors fought in pairs, or were taught to stab there, “where it was revealed,” and not to wait for “who to whom”!

Perhaps it looked like the Danish warriors who entered the island of Gotland. Fig. Angus McBride

English historians have received full confirmation that the main type of armor at the time were coat-of-plates, that is, "jackets made of plates." It was clothes made of cloth or leather, on which plates were riveted on the inside, posing as rivet heads. Handguards were made on the same principle: metal bottom, cloth on top. But it is clear that between skin and metal was another thin glove made of leather or fabric. True, neither helmets nor shields of the grave at Visby have been preserved. Perhaps the helmets from the dead were still removed, but the shields ... went for firewood?

In any case, the battle of Visby is important precisely because it was there, and this “fraternal burial” remained after it.
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  1. +12
    July 21 2016
    Very interesting article. The illustrations are beyond praise. Thank you, Vyacheslav Olegovich!
  2. +16
    July 21 2016
    Article written with inappropriate humor for this tragic battle.
    The islanders wanted to get rid of the colonial dependence of the Danish crown.
    The bulk of the islanders who participated in the battle were simple peasants, who suffered most from the additional requisitions of the Danish crown. These militia peasants were engaged in their peasant labor and were not trained in military craft. And although in quantitative terms there were many more than Danish soldiers, according to various sources from eight to twelve times, they suffered a crushing defeat from trained, well-armed professional Danish punishers, as well as German mercenaries who participated on the side of the Danish king.
    In fact, this was not a battle, but the beating of a peasant militia. According to various sources, from 6-8 thousand peasant militias killed from 2 to 3 thousand people. Relatives took part of the dead from the field, and the rest were buried in three main mass graves, about five hundred in each.
    Among the rebels were well-armed soldiers. Most likely there was a Swedish noble who wanted to use the uprising, use the peasants to achieve their goals.
    1. Riv
      July 21 2016
      Wait a minute ... If there were eight times more peasants than Danes, then it turns out that there were no more than a thousand Danes. Is it not enough for the siege of the Hanseatic city, which only city guards could put on the walls at least three hundred people? And the wall at Visby is outstanding, I guarantee it. Forty-odd towers.
      1. 0
        July 21 2016
        Riv Quote:
        Is it not enough for the siege of the Hanseatic city, which only city guards could put on the walls at least three hundred people? And the wall at Visby is outstanding, I guarantee it. Forty-odd towers.

        I agree with you. Even a smaller fortress with a garrison of not three, but even two hundred could not have been overcome by the Danes, despite their training and equipment. In terms of number, according to various sources, there were only 600 to 800 people, plus the Germans, mercenaries, and "adventurers". But as Genghis Khan said, in order to take the fortress, one traitor is needed among the defenders of the fortress, and then the need for additional hundreds of assaults disappears. One traitor who will give information at the right time, open the gates, nullify the efforts of the defenders of the fortress, replace hundreds of soldiers storming the fortress. Genghis Khan is not the first nor the last who used the services of traitors.
        And judging by the behavior of the urban elite during the battle, there were many supporters of the Danish crown in the city.
        1. Riv
          July 21 2016
          Then maybe honestly: there was no siege. It’s just that the local peisans were overgrown and robbed the wrong boat. The king was offended, decided to punish and, characteristically, punished. The city authorities thanked the king and made him a decent gift.
          That's all. Everyday business.

          In general, the siege of a Hanseatic city is an absolutely exceptional case. Kings usually relied on the cities to fight the local feudal lords. The infantry was recruited there, weapons were bought, taxes were collected. Serfs fled to the cities. It was also more profitable for artisans to deal with one ruler. Events such as "Battle of the Spurs" are exceptions to the rule and are always conditioned by something.
          1. 0
            July 21 2016
            Riv Quote:
            In general, the siege of the Hanseatic city is absolutely exceptional.

            I agree, but the island is somewhat special. The owners are many and Swedish feudal lords (colony), and the Danish crown (metropolis), and the city itself, the urban elite, is still a member of the Hanseatic League. Mostly there was a struggle between the Swedish feudal lords and the Danish crown. Swedish feudal lords raised the peasants to fight the Danish king.
            The urban elite, merchants and shopkeepers went after those who are stronger. Merchants-shopkeepers will not fight, they will negotiate, or rather pay off. This is what the Danes knew. Surely they knew that if the peasants with the feudal lords were defeated, then there will be no assault on city walls. Merchants shopkeepers from smear.
            This was unbearable for the peasants and they entered the battlefield under the leadership of their Swedish feudal lords, hoping to get rid of at least one bloodsucker - the Danish king. In those days, only the Swedish feudal lords, the owners of these same peasants, could collect and raise such a mass of peasants.
            Ships, most likely, also robbed the Swedish nobility with his servants. This is beyond the power of the peasant.
          2. 0
            October 3 2016
            Kings relied on cities in central and western Europe. And in the North, feudalism was with great features, where the kings of local counts hardly had to curb.
    2. +4
      July 22 2016
      Any era should be judged from the position of the era.
      And "colonial dependence", "professional punishers" and the like are terms of completely different times, not applicable to the Middle Ages.
      Every self-respecting man was a warrior. And the valor of a warrior is a victory over opponents, even "enemy" is too strong a word here. And the smerds then did not "rebel", but rebelled, for which they were justly (according to all laws) punished. Samurai killed a slave for the fact that he only touched a weapon. And then - look! - put on the armor! This is a riot! It was simply necessary to restore harmony in society.
    3. 0
      July 12 2018
      What nonsense! Militia - these were not some simple peasants!
      Gotland was very heterogeneous and occupied a very advantageous geolocation in the Baltic. And Visby was a well-known and rather large trading city, and it conducted extensive trade with both Denmark and Sweden, as well as with German cities and Russian principalities.
      And the population of the rest of Gotland, as a result of this, lived mainly not in peasant labor, but in trade, as well as maritime piracy and robbery. It is enough to read Russian and European sources, which more than once called Gotland a place where piracy was very widespread. Which caused damage not only to trade in Denmark, Sweden, other nearby cities and states, but also to Visby itself. Often, the local "gopota" intercepted the merchant ships that went to Visby, and the small number of the city garrison did not allow controlling the island and at least somehow curbing the local rip-heads.
      In many ways, this is why when Atterdag landed on the island to overwhelm this ulcer, and at the same time subordinate the island to its crown, the garrison did not come to the aid of the militia. Since the residents of Visby considered the rest of the Gotlanders not as some kind of peaceful peasants, but as robbers and rip heads, causing damage to the city.
      Naturally, the regular troops of the Danish king quickly dealt with the militia, since in military affairs the two warring parties were not comparable. But Visby himself did not save this from further plunder either. At least the townspeople escaped with only gold and valuables, but they didn’t care, in fact, on whom to depend, on the Swedish or Danish crown. But the Gotlanders - they certainly did not favor.
  3. +8
    July 21 2016
    The injuries sustained by the soldiers who fell in the Battle of Vizby are very interesting ..... The basis of European combat fencing was extreme pragmatism and most of the attacks were aimed at the limbs of the enemy, especially the legs, after which the warrior was simply stupidly finished off. Thank you, Vyacheslav, everything is interesting .. photo, illustration ..
    1. +2
      July 21 2016
      Quote: parusnik
      everything is interesting .. photo

      only I have more than half of the photos missing and only signatures?
    2. 0
      October 3 2016
      As confirmed by the analysis of the Visbian bones - a lot of severed tibia, cut off hands. Yes, and the armor suffered - helmets with dents, many plate armor broken. Plus, the Danes clearly had arrows, because many turtles pierced by bolts.
  4. +11
    July 21 2016
    The minus of the article is well-deserved. Estonian knights ... Vyacheslav, there were none. Never. Even in Estonian legends are not mentioned. They were at the level of the militia and with the appropriate training — they even rowed at home (only one victory — they attacked the crusaders from the forest in an ambush, they could not deploy cavalry). Nobody would hire such people. Even in those days, the SLAVA was valued by the soldiers.
    1. 0
      July 23 2016
      These are not ethnic Estonian knights, but according to their habitat, although it would be more correct of course - the Livonian knights would have no questions.
  5. +10
    July 21 2016
    Quote from the article:
    The injuries sustained by the soldiers who fell in the Battle of Vizby are very interesting.

    As shown by excavations of burials and inspection of skeletons, the main wound among the peasant militias was a cutting wound from a sword on the left lower leg or knee, less often on the right leg.
    The full equipment of a medieval fighter for combat is very expensive. First, a sword or ax was purchased, then if the means allowed a helmet, then a shield, etc. Leggings to protect the legs and knees were purchased last, if there was still money. Basically, among the peasant militias, the shins and knees were not protected from the blow of the sword, ax, spear, and the left leg was often put forward in anticipation of the strike. A trained Danish soldier or German mercenary stabbed the exposed leg with a sword and the wounded peasant militia filed. Then they finished him already lying.
  6. +1
    July 21 2016
    Thank you very much for the article, Vyacheslav! Brand new information! I did not know about this battle. I am waiting for new topics!
  7. +4
    July 21 2016
    Quote from the article:
    And the main thing in this battle is that those who died in the battle were buried in common graves. Moreover, no one removed either armor or clothes from the soldiers. They were simply thrown into the pits and covered with earth from above.

    I have already noted in the above comment that the bulk of the dead were buried in three mass graves, each of which about 500 people. In one, most likely the first, the burial was removed from the corpses of the dead and the corpses were laid more evenly, in rows. Two other graves were already laid with part of the armor and in relative disorder.
    It is clear that it took a lot of time and people to bury such a large number of killed, almost 2000 corpses, and to remove the armor twice or three times more. It was summer, heat, the cadaverous smell of decay, and not somewhere far away in the steppe, but almost near the city. The punitive Danes and mercenaries, the Germans themselves, will not dig, bury, remove and wash the armor, and there were not enough local performers, and probably the "winners" gave the command to fill up with earth as soon as possible and off their shoulders.
  8. +2
    July 21 2016
    "The second could be the result of banal disgust: the Danes seized such prey that they were too lazy to tinker with the corpses swollen from the heat" Yes, yes, and the robbed residents of Visby suddenly became sharply infected with altruism and decided not to compensate, at least partially, their losses.
    The second version is very doubtful.
  9. +2
    July 21 2016
    Brigant armor is a very convenient thing, and the blow dampens well and is easy to repair, and transportation is generally a song.
  10. +3
    July 21 2016
    Who is interested
    Medieval dead
    there is a documentary series on torrents. A very interesting point of view.
  11. +1
    July 21 2016
    Quote from the article:
    Then the fun began. Do you think that the inhabitants of the city were besieged? Not at all! After observing from the walls and towers the defeat of the hated peasants, they hastened to surrender to the King of Denmark and thereby save the city and their property from plunder. It is believed that they gave the winners almost half of their wealth ...

    The most interesting is not enough, everyone knows that merchants and shopkeepers, in a word, merchants are very unreliable allies. They will hand over and sell and do not blink an eye. And the fact that "they gave the winners almost half of their wealth" is what the merchants-shopkeepers will knock out and return to themselves, again on the surviving peasants and other buyers.
  12. +2
    July 21 2016
    Interesting article.
  13. +3
    July 21 2016
    although ... it happens in July.
    Repeatedly traveled to St. Petersburg in July. After Rostov +40 their +7 with the rain for the sheepskin just right.
  14. 0
    July 21 2016
    Quote: Riv
    Wait a minute ... If there were eight times more peasants than Danes, then it turns out that there were no more than a thousand Danes. Is it not enough for the siege of the Hanseatic city, which only city guards could put on the walls at least three hundred people? And the wall at Visby is outstanding, I guarantee it. Forty-odd towers.

    Not a little, in those days 500 people were already considered an army capable of much, albeit not a large but army. hi
  15. +2
    July 22 2016
    Here I look at the remains of warriors of different years, of different empires (from Roman armor to the end of the 19th century). Each lived in due time, fought under the banners of his emperor, king, etc., looked in the face to his opponent (each to his own - Gall, German, later Norman, Franc, etc.) Each of them lived in his own world order , and believed in the prosperity of his particular state. I mean, in fact, nothing has changed, the methods of warfare have changed, and human nature, in fact, has remained the same. Some attack, others defend. And maybe after many, many years, some archaeologists will find the remains at the site of the battles of Saur-Grave, Aleppo, and others.
  16. -2
    July 22 2016
    Here is a link from where Shpakovsky stupidly took his material. Even more precisely, he simply rewrote a little. Frank plagiarism. And he added pictures from other similar materials. This is called the serious work of the historian-researcher)))).
  17. 0
    July 23 2016
    This massacre is a vivid example of what happens when not a large professional army meets with a militia, albeit a fairly large one, serious historians have been disassembling this battle for a long time, and the fact that the dead were dumped like cattle in a ditch and most of them in armor was given such an answer, a big some of the armor was obsolete by that time, somehow.
  18. 0
    October 3 2016
    Shpakovsky .... Didn't he once read a special course in Novosibirsk on armaments and armor of antiquity? It was brief, but very interesting)
  19. 0
    July 12 2018
    Among the Danes there were losses, according to some sources from modern Swedish sources - a maximum of several hundred people. At least, several notable persons from Europe are known, in particular from the Roord clan, who were identified by armor heraldry from the same graves. Most likely, the Danes buried their fallen there.
    In addition, among the Danes were not only the Danes themselves, but also many knights and professional warriors from the rest of Europe.

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