Gudhem Abbey

Gudhem Abbey

Ruins of the monastery.
Location within Västra Götaland
Monastery information
Order Order of Saint Benedict and
Established 1152
Disestablished 1527
Location Gudhem, Västra Götaland County, Sweden
Coordinates 58°14′24″N 13°33′17″E / 58.24000°N 13.55472°E / 58.24000; 13.55472Coordinates: 58°14′24″N 13°33′17″E / 58.24000°N 13.55472°E / 58.24000; 13.55472

Gudhem Abbey, Swedish Gudhems kloster, in operation from 1152 to 1529, was a nunnery in Sweden, initially Benedictine and later Cistercian. It was located in Gudhem outside Falköping in the Falbygden area in Västergötland. It is considered to have been one of the oldest convents in Sweden, after Vreta Abbey (1100) and Alvastra Abbey (1143).


Gudhem, a name signifying "Home of the Gods", was according to tradition a holy place of worship already before Christianity. According to the saga, one hundred images of the thunder god Thor were placed in Gudhem. According to a popular legend, Gudhem Abbey was founded in 1052 by Gunnhildr Sveinsdóttir, Queen Dowager of Sweden and Denmark, who returned to a life of penitence in her estate in Västergötland in Sweden, after her marriage with king Svein II of Denmark was annulled by the Church. In reality, however, the Abbey was founded exactly one hundred years later, in 1152. Charles VII of Sweden donated the royal estate of Gudhem Manor to the Abbey during his reign (1161-1167), and the nunnery was by then described as newly established.

Gudhem Abbey was prestigious during the 13th century, when it was responsible for providing the Pilgrims on their way to Nidaros with hospitality. The Swedish Queen Dowager Catherine of Ymseborg entered the abbey in mid 13th century and donated her vast estates to it. During the reformation in 1527, the abbey was confiscated by the crown, in the following year it was granted to the nobleman Nils Olofsson. The former nuns however, were granted an allowance from the properties formerly belonging to the abbey and the right to live in the building for life. In 1529, the abbey caught fire and burned down. The last abbess asked the King to rebuilt the abbey, but her request was not granted, and the nuns were housed by the surrounding peasantry. They continued to be supported by the allowance granted to them in 1527. There were still former nuns benefiting from the allowance living in the surroundings of the former abbey in 1540. The abbey was never rebuilt and the ruins were used as a quarry. In the late 17th century, the walls of the church were still of original height. The ruins were excavated in 1928-1969.

Gudhem Abbey is a location in The Knight Templar (Crusades trilogy), where the character Cecilia is imprisoned.


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