Lund, Sweden – The oldest city with the youngest spirit, An Introduction

Cobble-stoned streets, quaint little houses covered in pastel colours, quiet and peaceful alleyways with the occasional pedestrian walking past.

If the scene in front you was in monochrome, you could almost imagine yourself somehow being transferred back in time to the 1700s, occasionally brought back to the future when a random bicycle and motorcycle drives past.

Life seems so slow, so relaxed in this town. It was almost as if the town has seen everything and nothing would surprise or excite it. Only, that impression is an illusion. It is merely one side of this city for once the sun comes down, the students come out to party and Lund is perhaps once of the most crazy places to be in Sweden.

That’s because Lund is a classical university town, close to half the town is populated by university students, and if there is anything young college student’s like, it’s a good (and mostly cheap) party. When you have so many students, it pushes down the average age of the city, making it clearly a more enjoyable and exciting place to be. Unsurprising then that the most young and fun town in Sweden is also the oldest town in the country.

A Union house of the University of Lund, easily the most lively place in the city when I was there

While Sigtuna is called the oldest Christian town in Sweden, the accolade of the oldest town in the country goes to Lund. This even though, Lund has only been legally Swedish for 300 hundred years.

Legend has it that Lund was founded almost a thousands years ago, archaelogical dating puts it between 990 and its earliest residents were moved there from a nearby town called Uppåkra, itself an old and important site dating back to the bronze age, by the Viking chieftian (present day Danish forebears) Sweyn Forkbeard. It’s location on a elevated plain provided it better defensive cover from invaders, it’s location was also good for trade between peoples from all over the Nordics. Once the move was complete, the importance that once belonged to Uppåkra was rapidly transferred to Lund, which enabled Lund to grew rapidly in importance.

In an age where trade, politics and religion went hand in hand, Lund’s political and economic relevance was given a religious shine. It was made home to a the christian Archdiocese of Lund in 1048, which had religious authority over all of Scandinavia and parts of Greenland. This was a few centuries before western Christianity was split up.

Lund Cathedral
The rise in religious importance was mirrored by a rise in educational importance. While it is ubiquitous today to portray religion as antithetical to science and knowledge, what is less appreciated is the fact that much of knowledge developed by western philosophies arose from the seminaries and priesthood of the time, a series from Thomas Woods, a serious scholar of ecclesial history does a good job of explaining this, if you excuse the sometimes overzealous language.

So what did the establishment of the Archidiocese do to Lund? It gave Lund an intellectual forment that did not previously exist, and in 1085, led to the establishment of the Katedralskolan (the Lund Cathedral School), the oldest educational institution in all of Scandinavia and one of the most prestigious educational institutions in the region. It was set up to train clergymen and later the children of the elite. Cathedral schools were institutions of learning that at the time were meant to prepare the leaders of the future with knowledge – they therefore taught subjects like grammar, astronomy, rhetoric, logic, arithmetic, geometry and music, also known as the seven liberal arts.This educational environment later led to the establishment of the rudimentary versions of Lund University in 1425 and officially in 1666, but more on this in another post. The school still exists today, one of its most well known alumni in recent times is actor Max von Sydow.

To my eye, there seems to be something in the waters of Lund that nurtures successful entertainers seeing as natives of Lund include Eurovision 2015 winner Måns Zelmerlöw,

Axwell of Swedish House Mafia fame,

and Amanda Jenssen.

Lund (the whole Scania province really) was Danish for a long time, and was handed over to Sweden only in 1658,after the Second Northern War, when a peace treaty between the two Kingdoms was signed and the whole off Scania was given to Sweden as part of the terms of the agreement. Meaning that although the province has been Swedish for more thn 250 years, it has still been more Danish for longer than it has been Swedish. A point that Swedes in other parts of the country tend to jibe Scania about.

Located around 13 km inland, Lund the university town is supported by an economy powered by students with higher education – it is a regional hub for high tech industries (Sony, Ericsson, Microsoft in computer/mobile tech, Gambro in med tech and Doro in telecom), it is also a hub for the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry. All these industries are industries of the future. Some of the most ‘futuristic’ industries in what is the oldest city in all Sweden.

Time to explore this small university town!


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