ÆSAHULT is the fictitious name of the church with a past, a place that was once the abode of a Viking chieftain, Rómund. He was to be superseded by his daughter Æsa, who, having befriended a Christian Monk converted to christianity, founding Æsahult, the first Christian church to be built on the shore of the lake.
It seemed disconnected, rising tall above the canopy of the surrounding forest besides a bleak, lakeside shoreline. All of it fading to gray, blurring the boundaries between what was heaven, what was earth and water, floating, remaining beyond the regular, slow beat of windscreen wipers. – The Prologue.
The location for Æsahult is part of Munkastigen – a 96 kilometer pilgrim’s trail between the Riseberga convent and the church of St. Birgitta in Olshammar on the shores of the great lake Vättern, passing through the old monastery of Ramundeboda on the NE shore of lake Unden, just north of the present location of Skagahult and close to the setting for Æsahult church.
The Pilgrim’s Trail passed through the old forest of the god Tiv – the wilderness between Lake Vättern and Lake Vänern which separated the Swedes and the Geats from each other. Brave he who defied the bears, wolves and outlawed highway men of the “twelve mile forest” it was proclaimed, and monks from the monastery at Ramundeboda (Ramund’s homestead, or Rómund’s place) catered to the needs of the hardy, using the trail themselves to row across the lake to meet their brethren at Alvastra and Vadstena. Thus was a long tradition continued that lasted a thousand years.
Part of this ancient trail passes bogs on old medieval carriageways, passing the real-life reconstructed church at Skagahult, the present day church that was the source of inspiration for the invention of Æsahult. ‘The natural surroundings, which alternate from wild and magnificent to intimate and seductive, offer a peaceful and meditative experience… a chance to reconnect with yourself and your deepest thoughts.’ So it says on the information provided by the tourist board.
History of Ramundeboda
Located half-way through the twelve mile forest, Ramundeboda was founded in the 13th century. Run by the Tiveden monks at the border between two provinces, it was a place of refuge where travellers could rest under the protection of the monks and prepare for the remain- ing journey. Prayers to ward off evils were made before undertaking the rest of the journey through the wild lands of Tiveden.
In time Ramundeboda became an important stop on the Swedish King’s traditional tour of his kingdom. This was the site of a monastery run by the Hospital Brothers of St. Anthony providing a chapel and a hospice. A church was started here but was never completed, the monastery dissolved around the year 1530.
The invention of Æsahult therefore takes both the Swedish history of a real place, Skagahult and marries it with the Norwegian stave- church tradition, moulding them together with the history of Romundeboda, tied to an old Viking legend concerning a pagan site of god worship. The Skaga tale, associations of chieftain Rómund and the tales of the Monks at Ramundeboda, together with the more ancient location of ancient pagan rituals are amalgamated into a place and church of greater size and majesty than Skagahult, becoming the fictional Æsahult.
Æsahult respects history, to a certain extent follows history, but more importantly reinterprets local history and traditions to be-come a centre stage for contemporary fiction.