The Swedish runestones tell of many
who took part in Viking expeditions to the west. The majority probably
sailed to England to exact Danegeld, the tribute imposed on the English
from the end of the tenth century. Many, even so, certainly visited the
Scottish coast both to raid and to trade. But we have no detailed
knowledge of this at all.
Contemporary Catholic pamphlet against Gustavus
Adolphus and "the barbarians"
which he brought to Germany
Sweden’s most intimate contacts
during the Middle Ages were with Central Europe, particularly Germany.
Parallel with these we find less extensive, but (even so) important,
cultural influences from the British Isles. It is worth noting that
throughout this period it was Norway that was most strongly influenced by
Britain, owing to her geographical position.
Ansgar (died 865), a monk from
Hamburg, was the first missionary to Sweden, but his work can hardly be
said to have had any far-reaching consequences. Not until the 11th
century did Christianity gain a firm foothold in Sweden, and this was
mainly through missionaries from Britain. We know the names of some of
these but it is uncertain whether any of them were Scottish. The centre of
the British mission was Vastergotland, and the bishop’s seat in Skara was
occupied by churchmen of British origin. Sweden’s first Archbishop,
Stefan, who was enthroned in 1164 and his seat in Upsala, was also an
Englishman. In areas where the British mission gained a foothold there are
still traces of British influence in church art and architecture. This is
true not only in Vastergotland but also in Ostergotland (Linkoping) and,
for example, at Sigtuna, where Sweden’s first Christian King, Olof
Skotkonung, in the early 11th century had his English mint
master strike coins marked with a cross.
At the beginning of the 13th
century, the German church and Germanic culture became dominant in Sweden,
and we find in the sources only a few travellers from the west. These
include the Scot Jacob Teit, who was in the service of Birger Jarl in the
middle of the 13th century. Descendents of Teit are still to be
found in Finland.