THE BIRTH OF GOTHENBURG: Göteborgs födelse


“THE BIRTH OF GOTHENBURG is not just about Gothenburg, the city that is celebrating its 400th anniversary, but also about the people who once lived there and the visible traces they have left behind. The birth of Gothenburg is a story about major events but short distances. Nya Lödöse lay at the mouth of the Säveån River in today’s Gamlestaden.” – THE BIRTH OF GOTHENRBUG: Göteborgs födelse published by Göteborgs stadsmuseum 2017

The slim bilingual book in English and Swedish (50 pages) gives a snapshot of the history of the 400-year-old city. For a Swedish language learner the book could help him or her to learn the North Germanic language.

THE BIRTH OF GOTHENRBUG: Göteborgs födelse has some rare photographs of objects, artefacts, utility tools that are out of production, sketches and maps of the city and a figurine or statuette of 17th century – a womb – found in today’s Tynnered (5.2 cm long and 3.3 cm wide). There is a photograph of stunning murals showcasing aspects of classical mythology adorning the residence on Södra Hamngatan 1.

“Älvsborg Castle stood in today’s Klippan in the district of Majorna and the first Gothenburg was built on Hisingen in Färjenäs. All these sites are less than 10 kilometres from the centre of today’s Gothenburg.” The book takes you on a journey on the evolution of the quadricentennial city.

People of the past, major events, the places (Nya Lödöse at the mouth of the river Säveån in today’s Gamlestaden) are mentioned in the book to give an insight into its history.

Sources culled from texts, objects, contracts, parliamentary proceedings, wills, decrees, church registers, diaries, letters, crafts, archaeological objects and maps.

Brief biographies of a criminal, witness, victim, merchant, barber-surgeon and weighmaster of the city makes you to ponder about the changes the city has witnessed and outlived them.  “We depend on these traces in order to get close to the past. But they are not enough. The people of the past do not call out to us.” The book gleaned information as disparate as from Gothia (a map of southern Sweden by Johannes Blaeu from 1660), David Lydingheilm’s 1677 map of the Göta River valley between Gothenburg and Lärjeholm, a ceramic jug from Westerwald in present day Germany probably from the 1600s among others.

Marit Svensdotter ran a slaughterhouse in the city for 15 years after her husband Björn died who was a butcher (of animals).

Anna Jönsdotter endured the prevailing customs and laws of the time – impregnated by the man for whom she worked in his house – their relationship of love, stillborn baby convicted for crime: she had to lay her head on the block and die at the executioner’s hand.


In 1473, not 1621, Bishop Hans of Skara was assigned to found a new town. Where? At the mouth of the Säveån River where it meets the Göta River and find a new town, it was called Lödöse, 50 km from the sea. In the second half of the 15th century, the town had problems with Bohus fortress and at Norway’s reach, so there was a need for the Bishop Hans of Skara and others to find another town: Nya Lödöse (Gamlestaden).

“Nya Lödöse existed until Gothenburg was founded in 1621. At that time all the residents of Nya Lödöse were forced to move to the new city. The two of Nya Lödöse was abandoned and disappeared but was later excavated several times during the 1900s. The biggest-ever excavation happened in the 2010s, when Gamlestaden was to be rebuilt. The excavations reveal that Nya Lödöse was a well-planned town with symmetrical plots of land and stone-paved streets. The town also had a stone church surrounded by a graveyard, in which the archaeologists have found about 1,000 bodies buried.”


“The exhibition The Birth of Gothenburg and its catalogue thus aim to direct our attention to the first generations of Gothenburgers via source texts, unique objects and archaeological finds. Here we meet the people who hosted dinners and parties in the beautiful baroque salons and the women and men who crept through the murky alleyways. We can see the children’s small spinning tops and clay whistles found by archaeologists in the ground.”

Salon and saloon are two of the commonly confused words in English. Saloon is a tavern, a pub for alcoholic drinks or a place for selling and consuming alcohol, a room for a specific purpose such as a drawing room or reception room, a dedicated place in a bar or barroom with rich furnishing for customers with more spending power, a saloon car, a cabin in a ship for dining. Salon is place for hair-cut, to clip one’s hair by a barber or hairdresser and also to buy beauty and hair products.

The book takes you on a short journey into the long history of the city in a short time. The book is available to buy at the Stadsmuseum or you can borrow from one of the libraries in the city.