Christianity and the Birth of a Kingdom
During the 11th and 12th centuries several families from different provinces battled for power over the central part of what is known today as Sweden. The country was more like a federation of self-governing provinces, a number of which, for a limited time, had influence over those around them.
Little is known of the kings and chieftains in the early Middle Ages other than brief mentions in sagas. In the 11th century, King Olof Skot-konung (d. 1020) was converted to Christianity and was baptized in 1008, along with his sons Anund Jakob (d. 1050) and Edmund the Old (d. 1060). Thereafter power passed to the Stenkil family, which had strong links with Vastergotland where the Christian church had gained the most influence.
The church and the gradual transition to Christianity underway in the 12th century were vital to the growing power of the king. The priests brought with them an administrative tradition, a civil service and a rational system for regulating property. The church also
King Olof Skotkonung’s baptism at Husaby well in Vastergotland, 1008 reinforced the strength of the king ideologically through the idea that his power was derived from God.
Once the Stenkil dynasty came to an end around 1120, the royal houses of Vastergotland (Erik) and Ostergotland (Sverker) battled for supremacy. Both families died out in the first half of the 13th century at the time w’hen the power of the riksjarl (earl) was at its height. The riksjarl was the king’s most important states-L man and the position gained greater influence through Birger Magnusson, known as ‘ Birger Jarl, who became riksjarl in 1248 under King Erik Eriksson. Until his death in 1266, Birger Jarl was the de facto wielder of power in Sweden, which by then had developed into a medieval kingdom similar to those elsewhere in Europe.
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