Temple at Uppsala

From Academic Kids

The Temple at Uppsala was a Temple in Gamla Uppsala (Old Uppsala), near modern Uppsala, Sweden, created to worship the Norse gods of ancient times.

Missing image
Midwinter blót (at the Temple at Uppsala), by Carl Larsson (1915)

The temple is only sparsely documented, but it is referred to in the Norse sagas and Gesta Danorum, and it is described by Adam of Bremen. The chief controversy is exactly where in Old Uppsala the temple was located and if it really was a building. Some believe that the temple was confused with the hall of the Swedish kings (located some tens of metres to the north of the present church). Churches were usually built on top of previous pagan temples, and during an excavation of the church, the remains of one or several large wooden buildings were found.

Snorri Sturluson wrote that the temple had been built by the god Frey who used to reside at Uppsala. Snorri and Saxo Grammaticus claimed that it was Frey who began the human sacrifices. Both the Norse sagas, Saxo Grammaticus and Adam of Bremen describe the sacrifices at Uppsala as popular festivals attracting people from all over Sweden, and all the sources relate of human sacrifice for the Norse gods.

The Temple at Uppsala was probably destroyed by king Ingold I in 1087 during the last battle between the pagans and the Christians.

In the year 2000, the first blót was performed at Old Uppsala for over 900 years, by the Swedish Asatrúer.



Snorri Sturluson relates that the Temple was built by the god Frey, who settled at Uppsala:

Odin took up his residence at the Maelare lake (Mälaren), at the place now called Old Sigtun. There he erected a large temple, where there were sacrifices according to the customs of the Asaland people. He appropriated to himself the whole of that district, and called it Sigtun (by some suggested to be the same as Tacitus's Sitones). To the temple priests he gave also domains. Njord dwelt in Noatun, Frey in Upsal, Heimdal in the Himinbergs, Thor in Thrudvang, Balder in Breidablik; to all of them he gave good estates.[1] (http://www.northvegr.org/lore/heim/001_01.php)
Frey built a great temple at Upsal, made it his chief seat, and gave it all his taxes, his land, and goods. Then began the Upsal domains, which have remained ever since.[2] (http://www.northvegr.org/lore/heim/000_02.php)
But after Frey was buried under a cairn at Upsala, many chiefs raised cairns, as commonly as stones, to the memory of their relatives.[3] (http://www.northvegr.org/lore/heim/000_02.php)

He also relates that there were human sacrifices:

Domald took the heritage after his father Visbur, and ruled over the land. As in his time there was great famine and distress, the Swedes made great offerings of sacrifice at Upsal. The first autumn they sacrificed oxen, but the succeeding season was not improved thereby. The following autumn they sacrificed men, but the succeeding year was rather worse. The third autumn, when the offer of sacrifices should begin, a great multitude of Swedes came to Upsal; and now the chiefs held consultations with each other, and all agreed that the times of scarcity were on account of their king Domald, and they resolved to offer him for good seasons, and to assault and kill him, and sprinkle the stalle of the gods with his blood. And they did so. [4] (http://www.northvegr.org/lore/heim/001_03.php)
After Ole's fall, On returned to Upsal, and ruled the kingdom for twenty-five years. Then he made a great sacrifice again for long life, in which he sacrificed his second son, and received the answer from Odin, that he should live as long as he gave him one of his sons every tenth year, and also that he should name one of the districts of his country after the number of sons he should offer to Odin.[5] (http://www.northvegr.org/lore/heim/001_05.php)

Moreover, he relates that many people gathered there for the sacrifices:

Onund's district-kings were at that time spread widely over Sweden, and Svipdag the Blind ruled over Tiundaland, in which Upsal is situated, and where all the Swedish Things are held. There also were held the mid-winter sacrifices, at which many kings attended. One year at midwinter there was a great assembly of people at Upsal, and King Yngvar had also come there with his sons. Alf, King Yngvar's son, and Ingjald, King Onund's son, were there -- both about six years old. They amused themselves with child's play, in which each should be leading on his army.[6] (http://www.northvegr.org/lore/heim/001_07.php)

According to Snorri, there was a main blót at the Temple at Uppsala in February, and they sacrificed for peace and for the victories of the king. Then the Ting of all Swedes was conducted and there was a grand fair, and this continued even after Sweden had been Christianized. The Disablót was performed to see how large the next harvest would be.

Gesta Danorum

Like Snorri, Saxo wrote it was a place for human sacrifice founded by the god Frey:

Also Frey, the regent of the gods, took his abode not far from Upsala, where he exchanged for a ghastly and infamous sin-offering the old custom of prayer by sacrifice, which had been used by so many ages and generations. For he paid to the gods abominable offerings, by beginning to slaughter human victims.[7] (http://sunsite.berkeley.edu/OMACL/DanishHistory/book3.html)

He also writes that there were assemblies of people entertaining themselves:

And when he (Starkad) had done many noteworthy deeds among them, he went into the land of the Swedes, where he lived at leisure for seven years' space with the sons of Frey (House of Yngling). At last he left them and betook himself to Hakon, the tyrant of Denmark, because when stationed at Upsala, at the time of the sacrifices, he was disgusted by the effeminate gestures and the clapping of the mimes on the stage, and by the unmanly clatter of the bells. [8] (http://sunsite.berkeley.edu/OMACL/DanishHistory/book6.html)

Adam of Bremen

Adam of Bremen wrote that the Swedes had a famous temple named Ubsola, near which there was a large tree with wide branches. It is always green, winter and summer, and no one knew what species it was. There was also a well where they used to perform the sacrifices and immerse a living man and if he disappeared the gods would answer the prayers. It was not far from the towns of Sigtuna and Birka.

A golden chain was around the temple hanging over its gables and the chain could be seen glittering far and wide for those who approached. It stood on flat ground sourrounded by mounds like a theatre. Inside the temple which was richly decorated with gold, there were three statues of gods. The most important god, Thor sat on a throne in the centre and beside him sat the gods Odin (whom Adam called Wotan) and Frey (called Fricco by Adam).

Thor was said to govern the air, thunder, lightning, winds, rain, good weather and harvests. Odin, which meant the furious, brought war and gave strength against enemies. Frey who gave peace and pleasure was represented by a statue with an immense phallos. Odin's statue was armed, and was likened to Mars and Thor was likened by Adam to Jupiter. The people also worshiped heroes who had been elevated to gods, such as king Erik about whom it is told in Vita Ansgari.

There were priests appointed for the gods, and if plague or famine threatened they sacrificed to Thor, whereas they sacrificed to Odin for war and to Frey for marriages.

The tradition was that every ninth year, there was a great feast at the vernal equinox which was attended obligatorily by all Swedes. Not long ago, a Christian king named Anund (Anund Gĺrdske) had refused to sacrifice to the gods and had left glady for his faith.

All the kings and the people brought gifts to Uppsala an even the Christians had to redeem themselves by attending, which Adam found to be distressing. There were feasts and sacrifices for nine days and each day they sacrificed a man and animals so that when the nine days had passed seventy-two men and animals had been sacrificed.

They offered nine male heads of every living thing that was used in sacrifices, even dogs and horses together with the men (the remaining were probably rams, cocks, pigs, goats and bulls) and the bodies hanged in the sacred grove adjoining the temple. Every tree in the grove was sacred due to the death and decomposition of the corpses.

A 72-year-old Christian had seen the corpses hanging arbitrarily from the branches and reported that the songs sung were many and improper. Adam considered it best not to be more specific about their content.


When Olof Skötkonung had been baptised he wanted to have it destroyed, but the Temple at Uppsala was probably destroyed by king Ingold I in 1087 during the last battle between the pagans and the Christians.

The new cathedral of the Swedish archbishopric was constructed on the site, and during an excavation of the church the remains of one or several wooden constructions were found.

The area also has a vast grave field that once comprised 2000-3000 mounds, and the remains of the houses of the Swedish kings. Since the Iron age, the area has always been the property of either the Swedish king or the Swedish state (the centre of the Uppsala öd). There is a museum and a restaurant where visitors can drink mead from horns.

See also:

Template:NorseMythologypl:Świątynia w Uppsali sv:Uppsala tempel


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