Crusader sword reveals early church presence in Finland

Published 22 October 2023
- By Editorial Staff
30 rosette-patterned square bronze fittings belonging to a leather belt were found. The Crusader sword was sticking out of the ground when it was found.

Archaeologists have discovered a burial site indicating an earlier ecclesiastical presence in Finland than previously assumed. Among the findings is a crusader sword dated to around 1050-1150.

In the city of Salo, archaeological excavations have been ongoing, especially around the medieval St. Bertil’s church. In late August, a landowner noticed an iron object protruding from the ground. Upon examination, it was quickly identified as a sword.

Preliminary investigations in September revealed the site to be a graveyard, but not just any graveyard. The sword found was believed to be used by crusaders.

The sword is of the crusader type with a handle-like, straight cross-guard and a three-dimensional, thick oval pommel, said Juha Ruohonen, an archaeology professor at the University of Turku, in a press release.

Further discoveries included human bones, parts of a possible coffin, and several other unidentified iron fragments. A notable find was a leather belt adorned with bronze fittings.

– On the belt, there were about thirty rosette-patterned square bronze fittings and several cross-shaped pendants. Among the finds was also a buckle, several end and animal head fittings, and belt dividers. Parts of the leather belt have been preserved. Additionally, much of the deceased’s clothing in the form of fabric remnants has been preserved alongside the bronze decorations, Ruohonen explained.

Significant Discovery

The deceased were buried following Christian customs, which is significant as it suggests a much earlier church presence in the area than previously believed. St. Bertil’s church, located near the burial site, was previously dated to the 15th century. The crusader sword found dates back to around 1050-1150.

– The observation can be considered very significant from a research perspective, as cremation burial sites from the crusade period are clearly less known in Finland compared to those preceding them. So far, these are also the only confirmed graves dated to the end of the Iron Age from Salo or the Uskelanjoki Valley.

– The fact that the site is located right next to a medieval stone church can be seen as an indication of a much earlier ecclesiastical organization in the area than previously believed, the professor stated.

Sources describing the first Swedish crusade to Finland date back to the end of the 13th century. However, scholars debate whether the crusade actually took place, as prior evidence has been lacking, according to The Heritage Daily.

Investigations will continue into 2024. Currently, the findings will undergo further analysis for more precise dating.


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