The battle of Mästerby

During week 32, the battle of Mästerby will be recreated on the island of Gotland. We wish to recreate the battle to illustrate how it might have played out at Mästerby, 1361. Recreation is an excellent way to bring a historical event to life and, as a result, gain more understanding and knowledge.

The battle will take place thursday the 8th of august. More information to come.


Sources discussing the fighting at Mästerby, 1361

Several sources from approximately the same time discuss three battles on the island of Gotland 1361. Amongst these sources are:

–        Sjællandske Krønike, cirka 1365
–        Libellus de Magno Erici Rege, written sometime between 1365 and 1371

These sources do not mention the location of these battles, except the one outside of the city of Visby. The first source to specifically name Mästerby is:

–        Cronica Guthilandorum, by H.N. Strelow, 1633

Strelow’s account is written long after the events of 1361, but it is possible that he had access to older sources, which were destroyed at a fire in a vicarage, 1735. Han tells us that there were two battles at Fjäle Myr in Mästerby, over the course of two days, and that the Danish king had a stone cross raised at Grens gård. It is not very likely, however, that Atterdag himself had the cross raised – a more probable story is that the Gotlanders themself did this, a few years later.

Other things which indicate there were battles at Mästerby are, aside from the sources, tales and oral traditions, various findings. Among these are:

–        Two rondell daggers
–        Crossbow bolts
–        Stirrups
–        Spurs
–        Lance heads
–        Parts of maces
–        Battle knives
–        Parts of armor, such as lamellas, buckles and fittings
–        Parts of chainmail

Many findings have been made, particularly during recent years, as archaeological expeditions have investigated the area.

All in all, sources, tales, findings and oral traditions provide us with unambiguous proof that there were battles between the Danish and the Gotlanders of Mästerby parish, only days before the battle at Visby Ring-wall.

Mästerby 1361, Slagfältsarkeologi i Valdemar Atterdags fotspår

Link to the archaeological investigation at Mästerby (in Swedish only):

The reenactment of the battle of Mästerby, 1361

The Gotlandish force is located on the northern side of Sudertingsån. A number of men are destroying the bridge which crosses the stream. They are working fast, since their scouts have told them that the Danish army is close, and on its way. The Danes have large numbers, modern armour and modern weapons. The Gotlanders themselves have old equipment, but they are truly motivated. They fight to protect their families and homes from the devestation following the Danish army.

The bridge finally crumbles, pulled down by horses, and it does so with a terrible crash. It is at the very last minute, because the Danish vanguard is in sight. The Danes spy out the Gotlanders and, after a while, they pick up formation and advance towards the stream. Getting into and then up from the stream furrow proves to be a hard task; the Gotlanders hold their formations, stabbing and slashing anyone who tries to cross the stream. The Danish vanguard is forced to retreat several times and at last, king Valdemar realizes that his troops will not be able to cross. He sends off scouts to find another passage over the steam – not too far off, at Fjäle myr, a passage is found. A group of Danish soldiers are sent to cross at Fjäle. The Gotlander crossbow archers attempt to stop the group, but their bolts are almost useless due to the modern, Danish armours. At the same time, the main army attack again, across the stream.

Suddenly, the Gotlanders find themselves battling their enemy at several fronts at once. Their lines break and parts of the Gotlander army starts to retreat. The Danish finally manage to cross the bog on horseback and attack full scale. The Gotlanders are pursued and killed in what proves to be a strenuous battle. Valdemar expresses his hopes that the following battles will not prove to be as difficult as those at Mästerby.