Second Swedish Crusade

The Second Swedish Crusade was a military expedition by the Kingdom of Sweden into Tavastia c. 1249–1250 as described by the Erikskrönikan. As described by the Erikskrönikan, the Swedes defeated the Tavastians under the leadership of Birger Jarl.[4]

Second Swedish Crusade
Part of the Northern Crusades

Birger Jarl conquering Häme and the construction of Häme Castle (1912)
Datec. 1249–1250[2]
Result Swedish victory[3]
Tavastia becomes a part of Sweden
Sweden Tavastians
Supported by
Commanders and leaders
Eric XI of Sweden
Birger Jarl


A sculpted head in Varnhem Church, identified as the likeness of Birger Jarl, leader of the Crusade

Sweden had held a foothold within Finland, specifically Finland Proper since the First Swedish Crusade. Swedish missionary attempts, possibly having been led by the bishop Thomas, were present within Tavastia in c. 1230. The Tavastian uprising from 1236–1237 led to a justification for the Swedes to invade Tavastia, with Pope Gregory IX calling the Swedes to attack them.[5]



Eric's Chronicle


All details of the crusade are from Eric's Chronicle, which is largely propagandist in nature, written a century after the events, amidst internal unrest and a war against Novgorod. The chronicle says that the crusade took place between the Battle of Sparrsätra in 1247 and the death of King Eric (XI) in 1250, and presents the Tavastians (taffwesta) as the Swedes' opponents. According to the chronicle, the expedition was prepared in Sweden and then conducted over sea to a land on the coast, where the enemy was waiting.[6]

The Chronicle also mentioned that a castle called taffwesta borg was established after the war. The Chronicle also linked the Crusade to a contest with the Orthodox Russians, making a point of the fact that the "Russian king" had now lost the conquered land.

King Erik then sent out a call

to knights and to their equals all, to peasants and to fighting men, – as ruler still do now, as then, to notify their men before they send them off to fight a war – he sent them thus to heathen land and chose his in-law to take in hand to lead them all upon that quest, for him of all he trusted best. His son-in-law was eager to go, keen his honour there to show. Then arms and armour were prepared by warriors brave, who nothing feared. Helmets and body-armour burnished were in demand, and more were furnished. Each in his district did his best, ready to heed the king`s request, and warships and transport set afloat.

Many a money-bag was brought out, its contents did those men receive who now their homes were due to leave not knowing where their journey led Hands were wrung and tears were shed by many a wife left on her own. Yet they rejoiced that God`s renown would grow and He be more adored. Many an old ancestral sword was then from nails unslung where it for many a day had hung. Their friends them followed to the strand to bid farewell and clasp their hand Many a red mouth was kissed that day that never again was kissed that way, for some never more would each other see such can the outcome of such partings be.

Fair winds arose, the sails were set. The heathen, too, foresaw the threat they well knew that their coming would be to their harm and not their good. There the Christians a harbour did find. Innumerable gilded prows aligned the heathen men saw lying there, causing them less to laugh than fear. They took their banners and went ashore. Fate then favored the Christians more: their bright shields there and helmets they throughout that country did display. They eager were to try their swords upon the Heathen Tavast hordes, which I expect is what occurred.

With gold and silver and many a herd of cattle the Tavasts away did run. The heathen lost, the Christians won. Whoever would this them agree to become a Christian and baptised be, him they allowed both goods and life and peace to live withour further strife. The heathen who would them gainsay they did mercilessly slay. The Christians there a fortress did build, which they with friend and kinsmen filled. That castle they Tavasteborg did call; it to this day does the heathen gall. With Christian men they settled that land, a deed, I think, that does yet stand.

That land became Christian through and through the Russian king its loss must rue.

Other sources


The so-called "Detmar Chronicle", originating from Lübeck around the year 1340, confirmed the expedition with a short note that Birger Jarl submitted Finland under Swedish rule.[8] The "Lübeck Chronicle" states that in 1266, Finland become a part of the Kingdom of Sweden.[9]



Unlike the dubious First Swedish crusade, there seems to be little doubt that Sweden's effort to Christianize Finland reached a culmination in the middle of the 13th century. Still, many details, including the year and the exact nature, remain the subject of debate.

Nature of the Crusade


Although the Chronicles attempted to paint the Crusade as a war of conquest, it was likely more of an unusually bloody phase in the ongoing process by which Finland was incorporated in the Swedish state. Sweden had a central government and a strong ideological force in the form of the Catholic church. The Finnish chieftains who joined gained power and prestige.[10]

Dating controversy


According to the Eric's Chronicle the crusade took place between the dates of 1247–1250.[4]

The 1247–1250 date has been viewed as false by Jarl Gallén and Gisela Nordstrandh who view it to be incorrect due to their position that it would only be logical for the crusade to take place following the Tavastian uprising and after the call of Pope Gregory IX to launch a crusade against the Tavastian pagans. They have suggested that the Second Swedish Crusade could only have taken place from 1238–39.[11][12] Swedish historian Dick Harrison finds the theory of an early crusade most probable, based on the papal letter, which would also make the war a properly sanctioned crusade, and the fact that Sweden was otherwise peaceful during that period.[13] However the 1238-1239 theory has not gained much prevalence or acceptance in studies.[14] Peter Andreas Munch stated that according to the Saga of Haakon Haakonarson, Birger Jarl would have been at the Norwegian border during the summer of 1349 of the Second Crusade.[15][16]

The position that the crusade took place from 1247–1250 has been defended by Rolf Pipping, who dismisses the work of Peter Andreas Munch, by stating that Birger Jarl did not stay on the Norwegian border in summer, instead in winter, possibly March and that Peter Andreas Munch misinterpreted the saga.[17] The Morkinskinna describes King Magnus Barefoot leaving the Oslofjord at the beginning of spring, which was on Candlemas (February 2) traditionally in Medieval Scandinavia.[18]

Taffwesta borg


The Chronicle mentioned an impressive castle that was built by the Swedes, taffwesta borg. This has been interpreted as either Häme Castle (Swedish Tavastehus) or the nearby Hakoinen Castle, but there is no archaeological evidence at either site to support such an early dating.



Church reaction and reorganization


Probably in an effort to prevent other parties from getting involved in the conflict, Pope Innocent IV took Finland under his special protection in August 1249 but without mentioning Sweden in any way.[19] The bishop of Finland, Thomas, probably a Dominican friar, had resigned already in 1245 and died three years later in a Dominican convent in Gotland. The seat being vacant, the diocese had probably been under the direct command of the papal legate, William of Modena, whose last orders to Finnish priests were given in June 1248.[20]

Bero was eventually appointed as the new bishop in 1248/9, presumably soon after William's visit to Sweden for an important church meeting at Skänninge that ended on 1 March 1248. The so-called "Palmsköld booklet" from 1448 noted that it was Bero who gave the Finns' tax to the Swedish king.[21] Bero came directly from the Swedish court, like his two successors. It seems that Swedish bishops also held all secular power in Finland until the 1280s, when the position of the Duke of Finland was established.

In 1249, the situation was also seen clear enough[further explanation needed] to establish the first monastery in Finland, a Dominican convent.[22] The convent was next to the bishop's fortification in Koroinen until the end of the century.

Swedish succession


Eric's Chronicle tells of how, as an unexpected side effect, the expedition seems to have cost Birger the Swedish crown. When King Eric died in 1250, Birger was absent from Sweden. The Swedish lords, led by Joar Blå, selected Birger's underaged son Valdemar as the new king, instead of the powerful jarl himself.

Swedish rule in Finland


From 1249 onwards, sources generally regard Finland Proper and Tavastia as a part of Sweden. The Diocese of Finland proper is listed among the Swedish dioceses for the first time in 1253.[23] In the Novgorod First Chronicle, Tavastians (yem) and Finns proper (sum) are mentioned on an expedition with Swedes (svei) in 1256.[24] However, very little is known about the situation in Finland in the following decades. That is partly because Western Finland was now ruled from Turku and so most of the documents remained there. As the Novgorod forces burned the city in 1318 during the Swedish-Novgorodian Wars, very few of the documents about what had happened in the previous century remained. The last Swedish Crusade to Finland took place in 1293 against Karelians.

See also



  1. ^ Meinander, Henrik (15 April 2020). History of Finland. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-754003-9.
  2. ^ Sundberg, Ulf (1999). Medeltidens svenska krig (1st ed.). Stockholm: Hjalmarson & Högberg. p. 73. ISBN 9189080262.
  3. ^ Harrison, Dick (10 January 2019). "Svenskt korståg kuvade det finska motståndet". Svenska Dagbladet.
  4. ^ a b Carlquist, Erik; Hogg, Peter C.; Österberg, Eva (1 December 2011). The Chronicle of Duke Erik: A Verse Epic from Medieval Sweden. Nordic Academic Press. ISBN 978-91-85509-57-7.
  5. ^ Harrison (2005), p.425-426
  6. ^ Description of the crusade. Original text.
  7. ^ Carlquist, Erik; Hogg, Peter C.; Österberg, Eva (1 December 2011). The Chronicle of Duke Erik: A Verse Epic from Medieval Sweden. Nordic Academic Press. ISBN 978-91-85509-57-7.
  8. ^ Suomen varhaiskeskiajan lähteitä, 1989. ISBN 951-96006-1-2. See page 7.
  9. ^ Tarkiainen, Kari (2010). Ruotsin Itämaa (in Finnish). Swenska litteratursällskapet i Finland. ISBN 978-951-583-212-2.
  10. ^ Harrison (2005), p 425; Tarkiainen (2008), p. 101
  11. ^ Nordstrandh, Gisela (1 January 1990). "En kritisk läsning av Erikskrönikans första korstågsepisod". Historisk Tidskrift för Finland (in Swedish). 75 (1). ISSN 2343-2888.
  12. ^ Gallén, Jarl (1968), "Kring Birger jarl och andra korståget till Finland. En omdatering och en omvärdering", Kring korstågen till Finland : ett urval uppsatser tillägnat Jarl Gallén på hans sextioårsdag den 23 maj 1968, [s.n.], retrieved 30 April 2024
  13. ^ Harrison (2005), p 427
  14. ^ "Suomen muinaismuistoyhdistys – FINSKA FORNMINNESFÖRENINGEN". Retrieved 30 April 2024.
  15. ^ Munch, Peter Andreas (1852). Det norske folks historie (in Danish). Tønsberg.
  16. ^ "Haakon Haakoninpojan saaga". Retrieved 30 April 2024.
  17. ^ Pipping, Rolf (1926). Kommentar till Erikskrönikan (in Swedish). Åbo tryckeri och tidnings aktiebolag.
  18. ^ Morkinskinna: The Earliest Icelandic Chronicle of the Norwegian Kings (1030–1157). Cornell University Press. 11 July 2012. ISBN 978-1-5017-2061-1.
  19. ^ "Letter by Innocentius IV to the diocese of Finland and its people". Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. In Latin.
  20. ^ "Wilhelm of Sabina's letter to the priests of Finland in 1248". Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. In Latin.
  21. ^ Original text as hosted by the University of Columbia; in Latin. See also Suomen varhaiskeskiajan lähteitä, 1989. ISBN 951-96006-1-2. Page 7.
  22. ^ "Convent established in Finland". Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. In Latin.
  23. ^ Surviving lists from 1241 and 1248 still did not include Finland.
  24. ^ "Novgorod First Chronicle entry about the Swedish attack to Novgorod and Novgorodian counterattack to Finland". Archived from the original on 27 September 2007.. In Swedish.