HUMA Maritime archaeology Gotland
Speech by Gunnar Svahnström at the memorial service in Visby church on July 28th 1966 in the memory of the Danish-Lübeck fleet that wrecked outside Visby on July 28th 1566.
From 1563 a war raged between Sweden and Denmark. This was the war that today is known as the Nordic 7 Years War. On July 26th 1566 a battle between the Swedish and the Danish-Lübeck fleet was fought at the northern tip of Öland. We can read about this battle and the events that followed in ”Kong Friderich den Andens Krönicke”:
“The Chronicle of King Friderich the Second - Seven Years of Feud with Sweden” by Peder H. Resen (1680)(A very non-precise translation from Danish)
In the evening the Lübeck admiral had his mast shot off and Christopher Mogensön received his deadly wound at the same time. The Swedish fleet had also suffered damage on ships and men and six of their ships leaked. During the night the Swedish fleet therefore headed for the skerries.
When the Danish fleet saw this, they gathered and sailed with the Lübeck fleet to Gotland. The admiral of the fleet informed lord Jens Bilde (of Visby) that they were going to anchor outside Visby while they buried the body of Christopher Mogensön. Soon after the entire fleet was anchored on Visby roadsted. Jens Bilde who knew the coast and the conditions on the roadsted considered it peculiar that the admiral let his ships and men anchor in this area that was not a safe spot and where no one could anchor without great risk. But the admiral thought that they were only going to stay a short period and that the ships were well equipped with anchors and ropes, so they would not suffer any problems. During the night a small storm hit the area and many of the ships had to cut down their masts, while others ripped their anchor ropes.
In the morning a favourable wind blew from the coast. All captains advised and admonished the admiral to let them head out to sea. But he thought that storms wouldn’t happen every night and wanted the ships to stay until they had entombed the body of the dead man on board in a decent manner. He deserved a decent and honourable burial after giving his life for the King and fatherland.
The funeral took place next morning in Visby church and all noble men followed him to his grave and since stayed on land until the sun went down. At this hour most of the men returned to the ships and the weather was quiet and calm. The sunset was strange with yellow and green colours and the night before the men had heard miserable screams from under the ships. And even though the weather and winds were calm, one could hear strange noises and roars under the ships as though there had been a strange storm; every now and then they could also hear mysterious screams in the air and they all wondered much upon it.
Epitaph from Visby church illustrating
the disaster of the Danish-Lübeck fleet
Two hours into the night a terrible and furious storm broke out. Those on land and in the houses had never experienced or remembered that there had been such bad weather before. The storm lasted six hours and no anchor, rope or human help could save the ships and men. Many of the ships drifted into each other and most of them were forced towards the coast where they were smashed to pieces. And in the town and on the castle such miserable screams and yells were heard, that the heart had to cry. But there was nothing the town people could do to help. That night was the saddest and most terrible night that the area had seen for many hundreds of years. And even though they (the men of the fleet) had made a big mistake I will – as they gave their lives for their country – not forget to forever praise the noble men and commanders that went down with their ships and men.
Admiral Hans Lauritzön, Christen Skeel, Söfren Munck and Mickel von Duicke were lost along with the admiral ship Samson. Also lost were all the Kings henchmen (over 1000 men, boys and crew), except 5 men who made it to shore; injured but alive.
The vice admiral ship Hannibal went down with Jens Truidsön Ulfstand, Jesper Kruse (who actually was on officer on Engelen), Anders Friis, Gregers Bryske, Peder Mickelsön, Jens Fixen and 948 men. Only 5 standard bearers and two ship’s boys survived. The ship Mercurio went down with 700 men, but captain Efvert Bildes and Gabriel Skinckel and 30 men managed to escape in the life boat.
Rubbert Pors and Lauritz Hansön disappeared along with the ship Engelen and all its men, except 15 men who drifted on wreckage to Gniesund where they made it to the shore alive.
Johan Freyberg and Niels Madtssön disappered with the ship Svalen along with 250 men. Only the ships cook survived.Two hundred men were lost with the ship Floris, while the captain Knus Steensön and Jörgen Nielssön were spared because they had decided to spend the night in Visby at Peder Hvitfelds house.
Lauritz Grön and 200 men went down with the Höyenhal and none of these were saved. All hands were also lost when the Grifven sank with Jacob Hög, Hemming Jacobssön and 200 men. The ”Engelske Fortun” and another small vessel also went down with all men.
The Lübeck fleet lost Morianen with its admiral Bartholomeus Tinnappel (mayor of Lübeck) and all crew, more than 1000 men.
Also Josva was lost, although vice admiral Johan Lamferbeck made it to shore with 20 men. The Haffruen went down along with its 300 men. Many more were lost, but it is too substantial to summarize it here.
But in this storm God saved all ships further away from the coast who had set their sails in time and had enough room to beat up against the wind. It was Peter Munck and Christopher Lauritzön on Jomfruen, Christen Juel and Erich Kaas on Elefanten, Otto Galskyt and Niels Stygge on Svanen, Peder Hvitfeld and Niels Michelsön on Borgemesteren. Besides these also some experienced sea men (but not of noble families), Jörgen Jyde on Svenske Jomfru, Christen Aalborg on Jonas, Thomas Bagge on Geisten, fought the elements and managed to save their ships and men.
And even though this was a terrible disaster that happened with Gods will and by the forces of wind and water, then a long time thereafter some witches were destined to death for causing the disaster on behalf of a woman that wanted to keep the riches that a captain of the Danish fleet had stored at her house in Copenhagen. But I see it as an act of God, who is almighty and unpredictable in his deeds.