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Release peace: the magazine

Release peace: the magazine

Analysis & Background Stories on International Affairs

The Sweden of Griffin Dogs and Dragon Slayers

Article by: Lauriane Lamare

A Church with Paintings and a Fortress with Blood

Nestled in the heart of Sweden’s picturesque Blekinge region, the city of Ronneby beckons with its rich history, cultural heritage, and enchanting natural beauty. Ronneby became part of Sweden in 1658 and sits within the Blekinge archipelago at the Ronnebyån River. An intricate tapestry of relationships has shaped the city over time. The Middle Ages in particular were a period that played a pivotal role in Ronneby’s historical significance: The town’s strategic location along trade routes fostered its growth and prosperity, leaving behind a legacy of architectural gems and cultural landmarks. One such landmark is the Church of the Holy Cross. It is the city’s oldest building, housing paintings that date back to the 15th and 17th centuries. Perhaps the most famous one is St. Jörgen and the Dragon, which depicts the medieval myth of St. George. In the myth, George slays a dragon to save the life of a sacrificial princess.

Leaving mythical battles aside, the city has seen its fair share of conflict. The stone walls of the Ronneby Kastell fortress stand as a testament to the town’s military past. For centuries, Ronneby was a Danish city and an important trading and shipping town in the Baltic Sea. In 1564, the Swedish army marched on the then-Danish city, leading to the infamous Ronneby Bloodbath. To this day, the doors of the Church of the Holy Cross bear marks and slashes made by the Swedish king’s men when they tried to enter the church where many of the city’s residents sought refuge during the massacre.

The Griffin Dog

The Gribshundhen was a warship built in the late 15th century commissioned by the Danish King John, (also known as King Hans). Its name translates into translates to “Griffin Dog” in English. It was a remarkable vessel characterized by its size, powerful armament, and distinctive appearance. The front of the ship featured a carved figurehead of a griffin. In 1495, the Gribshunden was part of a Danish fleet sent to the Kalmar Strait, a strategic waterway in the Baltic Sea. The fleet was engaged in a conflict with the Swedish navy during a period of tense relations between Denmark and Sweden. Tragedy struck that same year when the ship caught fire and sank off the coast of Ronneby.

It was only in 2013 that the Gribshuden shipwreck was discovered, an astonishing five centuries after it was built. It became an important artifact in the cultural heritage of both Sweden and Denmark. Its excavation has opened a window into the crew’s daily activities, personal belongings, and living conditions. Archaeologists and historians alike are now able to gain insight into the life aboard a warship during the 15th century.

Preserving the Past, Embracing the Future

While archeological artefacts and the well-preserved historic buildings and architecture stand as testaments to the town’s character, its contemporary arts, music, and cultural offerings infuse modern vitality into its heritage. The city weaves together historical roots with contemporary vibrancy. One such example is Ronneby Rockfestival, an annual music extravaganza held in the city blending the town’s scenic charm with a diverse rock and alternative music lineup. The festival’s outdoor stages provide a natural backdrop for both established bands and emerging talents to captivate audiences. Beyond the music, visitors can explore food stalls, artisan offerings, and engaging activities, fostering a sense of community among attendees of all ages. This event not only enriches Ronneby’s cultural landscape but also attracts music enthusiasts from the region, offering a weekend of immersive live performances and shared musical passion. 

Möllebackagården is a local heritage museum located in Ronneby’s cultural quarter, showcasing preserved interiors and separate exhibitions highlighting the area’s traditions, particularly in the realm of arts and crafts. Its oldest section dates back to the late 1700s and served as a residence for various mill owners associated with the Massman Mill for a century. Acquired and renovated by Ronneby Municipality in 1966, the property now houses the activities of the Ronneby Museum and Local Heritage Association. Among its features is a traditional ryggåsstuga with a thatched roof, representing a common housing style from the past in Blekinge.

Heart of the Garden of Sweden

Naturreservaret Södra Brunnskogen is a 157-hectare nature reserve that was established as Ronneby Kommun’s inaugural municipal nature reserve in 2010. It stretches from Lake Trollsjön to Rustorpsvägen Road. The reserve’s prime aim is safeguarding near-urban areas of rich ecological and recreational worth. It encourages outdoor activities while protecting vital habitats for local flora and fauna. Diverse landscapes, from serene spots to rocky heights, thrive with wetlands and lush forests.

Crucial to the reserve’s well-being is visitor compliance with respect for surroundings and fellow visitors. Guidelines encompass preserving natural features, vegetation, and cultural relics, along with responsible fire and vehicle usage. For horseback riders, riding is confined to marked paths, roads, and designated areas to mitigate soil damage. This is in an effort to harmonize nature and human interaction. Its preservation is a collective obligation, ensuring unspoiled allure for present and future generations. The Nordic countries are well known for their commitment to sustainability and Ronneby showcases this ideal.


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