In the novel “Three Kings – One Throne”, the travellers spend some time in Gamla (Old) Uppsala.
Today it is a village five kilometres north of the modern day city of Uppsala. There is dispute about the origin of the name “Uppsala”, but the Icelandic 13th Century writer Snorre Sturluson stated that it meant the place of the banqueting hall.
The settlement had huge political and religious importance in pre-Christian Scandinavia. The site housed a great pagan temple, a royal palace and burial grounds. Many of the ritual burials were in substantial burial mounds which can still be seen today. They were clearly built to impress as they are situated on a ridge and can be seen from some distance. It is calculated that it took around 10,000 man days to build one mound. The fact that such manpower could be mobilised indicates the power of the local rulers.
The 11th century chronicler, Adam of Bremen described the temple in 1070. He said that it housed wooden statues of the Norse gods Odin, Thor and Freyr and that a golden chain hung across its gables and the inside was decorated with gold. The priests of the temple sacrificed to the gods according to the needs of the people. Thor controlled the weather, Odin governed war and Freyr oversaw pleasure, peace and marriages.
The writer described how during the festival of Disablot, which occurred at the winter solstice every ninth year, nine people and nine of seven kinds of male animals were hung from trees outside of the temple. Each of these trees was considered to be sacred.
The great temple was destroyed in 1087 in a battle between Christians and pagans. Nevertheless the site was still considered so sacred that a church, the first cathedral of Sweden, was built on top of the temple ruins. Perhaps symbolic of Christianity’s triumph over paganism.
Today the area is a major tourist attraction with a visitors’ centre and museum.
[box] Odin… decreed by law that all men should be burnt….He declared that in this way every man would come to Valhalla with as much wealth as he had with him on the pyre….It was their belief that the higher the smoke rose in the air, the higher would rise the man whose pyre it was; and the more goods that were destroyed with him, the wealthier he would be.
Ynglingasagan by Snorre Styrluson [/box]