artikel 46

Kiev Prince on Viking Picture Stone from Scania, Sweden


In a park at the castle of Krageholm in Scania in Sweden there stands a picture stone portraying a man with a cross on a stick, some kind of cloak and a peculiar looking head gear. The stone was found in de midle of the 19th century and they decided to blow it up. When they saw the carvings on the front they decided not to. Since then it has stood in the park and no one has even had a god guess of what it represents.
   For about five years ago the former archaeologist Sven Rosborn came up with an intrigueing theory regarding the runic stones and picture stones of Scania. He noticed that the picture gallery included peculiar ships that seemed to have rams, an animal called "the Big Animal", a mask and odd looking warriors with funny hats and dresses. The cross was also present. Rosborn has very cleverly identified the warriors with varangians, who were guards in Constantinople. The animal is in fact a lion which represents the Byzantine emperor. The mask is the face of the animal seen from the front, and the ships are war ships from the same area.
   I only recently started to think about the picture stone at Krageholm. It stands in an area which is renowned for its runic stones and picture stones with animals, ships etc. The stones are all raised between 970 and 1050, within a time span of only 50 years. Most famous is the monument at Hunnestad. Could the picture stone at Krageholm also have an eastern influence? Could the man represent a specific person?
   It was a shot in the dark. After some research I could exclude the patriarchs of Constantinople and the emperor Basil II, who oddly enough also sat 50 years on the throne. The only other area of influnce which was feasible was the area held by Rus', in what is now Russia and Ukraine. We know that Nordic varangians were very familiar with places like Novgorod and Staraja Ladoga, and they were frequent "guests". Rus' were Slavic people but that there is some influence from the Nordic vikings is clear. But Rus' as well as the vikings were heathens with many gods to worship. Why would any of these wear a cross?
   But towards the end of the 10th century there was an internal conflict in the Byzantine realm led by Bardas Skleros and Bardas Phocas. Basil II is pressed to beg for assistance from his enemy, Rus'. Rus' has at the time a leader who has managed to take control over the whole area, with Kiev as its capital. His name is Vladimir I (Vladimir the Great) and he is by no means a christian. Vladimir now senses that there is a possiblity to further strengthen his position. He agrees to send 6000 varangians in exchange for the hand of Anna, the emperors sister. This is unheard of! Never has a barbarian married a byzantine princess. But Basil needs Vladimir's support. So he agrees on one condition: Vladimir must be baptized. Vladimir consent to this and is baptized in the year 988. What an event the christening of Vladimir (who, by the way, takes the name Basil, after his brother-in-law) must have been. And the year 988 is absolutely right if a varangian has witnessed the baptizm and after a few years returned home to Scania.
   There are, however, a few difficult obstacles left. What did Vladimir look like and how was he dressed? There are so few sources to rely on. There is a gold coin (a zlatnik) representing Vladimir on the throne. There are also the accounts of the byzantine Leo the Deacon and the arabian Ibn Fadlan.
   If we compare the cross and the facial traits on the coin with those on the picture stone there certainly are similarities. He has a moustache and he also seems to have a small beard on the coin. The same is true for the man on the stone. The cross on the coin has as long a stick as the one on the stone. A peculiar thing is what looks like a piece of string hanging down from the hat behind the persons neck on the stone. We have no written description of Vladimir. Leo the Deacon describes, however, Vladimir's father, Svyateslav. He points out that he has no hair what so ever on the head except for a lock of hair which was a sign of nobility. If we look at Vladimir's coin there are possibly two locks or small braids hanging down on either side of his head. It is very probable that Vladimir wore a lock of hair as a sign of nobility and the picture stone confirms it! It's amazing.
   Concerning the clothes, the shoes/boots and the hat, I'm depending heavily on other researchers work and the words of Ibn Fadlan. The latter says that Rus' wore a cloak that were fastened at the shoulder so that only the right arm was free. Lisa Kies has in her work on Rus' clothes showed that the prince wore a long cloak that reached down to the calves (and no one else!). If we look at the stone that is exactly what we see. And the man is also depicted in profile showing just his right arm with the cross!
   It is difficult to say anything about the shoes/boots on the stone. The man has only one foot. The other one was probably damaged when the stone was found or has never existed. The footwear is difficult to deduct anything from. It might be a boot.
   The man's hat on the stone looks nothing like the one on the coin. It looks like something the tsar Ivan III would have worn, and indeed like something Vladimir's sons Boris and Gleb wears on icons. What Vladimir had on his head is not known. Maybe the picture on the coin is unrepresentative. When I finally found Lisa Kies' description of a Rus' nobleman it almost was like she had seen the picture stone from Krageholm:

"Ancient depictions of nobles...allow us to suppose the formal costume of men was a long calf-length cloak,...under which was visible, wrapping the body, clothing of the svita type and also colored boots, and a half-spherical hat edged with fur."

The man who paid for the picture stone at Krageholm was perhaps one of the 6000 men sent by Vladimir to Constantinople to assist Basil II. If not, he has most certainly witnessed the baptizm and wedding of Vladimir. And what a tale he could tell when he returned! For a thousand years a picture stone has stood in Scania commemorating this event, and for hundreds of years the man on the stone has been silent. But now he talks! Never again will we look att the picture stone at Krageholm with the same eyes.

Bert Åkesson

For pictures see article 46 in Swedish
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