Archaeologia Maris Baltici et Septentrionalis

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King Valdemar’s Itinerary revisited


itineraryThe 13th-century Danish route description from Utlängan to Tallinn – colloquially known as King Valdemar’s Itinerary – is one of the oldest and most exiting written sources on navigation in the Baltic Sea.

It was included in the Liber Census Daniae, King Valdemar’s land cadastre, which encompassed also detailed administrative documents on Danish provinces in Scania and Estonia. This itinerary thus connected the scattered territories of the crown and has to be clearly seen within an administrative context. The Latinized transcription already reveals that this itinerary was not meant for the weathered hands of a sailor, but some of the details therein leave no doubt that the route description was communicated by sailors with local knowledge. The heterogenity also indicates, that the geographical knowledge of many was tapped.

Among the other documents included in the cadastre, there was also another itinerary, which describes the route from Ribe to Acre in the Holy Land that was added between 1200 and 1230. The first is often dismissed as crusader’s itinerary, as a copy was also found in Adam of Bremen’s Gesta Hammaburgensis ecclesiae pontificum, that was written arond 1070 and thus predates the first crusade. However, the itinerary from Ribe was posthumously added to Adam’s work, so both itineraries could be evaluated within the context of the crusades.

Some hypotheses about this itinerary were formulated in my recent paper:

  • This itinerary has to be embedded into the context of the Liber Census Daniae by comparison of (A) the Ribe-Acre itinerary and (B) the administrative documents detailing the tax revenues of fiefs in Scania and Estonia. It is hardly a practical guide (as the Latinized transcription indicates) but a document used for governance.
  • More specifically, the hypothesis was made, that this itinerary was a basis of calculatation for the time needed to cordinate a seaborne invasion, to send supplies or dispatches.
  • It seems that a similar importance was attached to this itinerary as the one leading to Acre in the Holy Land. A comparison to the imagination of the world as orbis terrarum fuels  the hypothesis that the itineraries describe routes that would eventually both lead to Asia.
  • While the document itself was for an administrative purpose, there cannot be a doubt that the geographical information were collected from sailors with a good local knowledge – the equivalent of scouts.
  • This itinerary employs a similar way of orientation in unknown territory, as was practiced on land. A comparison can be drawn to  the Lithuanian route reports, where native Lithuanians were hired by the Teutonic Order to scout inroads into the ‘Great Wilderness’ for future invasions.
  • the island of Saaremaa might have been deliberately avoided in the route description, due to the notoriety of their pirates or to be able to launch a surprise attack.
  • The heterogenity indicates that the itinerary is a compilation of different reports. The route along the Finnish and Swedish coast may have stemmed from Swedes who colonised these coasts and offshore island.
  • Former portage on the inner route at ‘Draget’, i.e. the site of a modern canal.
Passing the early modern Draget-canal on the itinerary's inner route. The toponym suggest a former portage site. Despite post-glacial landrise, this isthmus was probably not completely inundated in the 13th-century (Photo: Daniel Zwick)

Passing the early modern Draget-canal on the itinerary’s inner route. The toponym suggest a former portage site. Despite post-glacial landrise, this isthmus was probably not completely inundated in the 13th-century (Photo: Daniel Zwick)

We passed the last-mentioned site under sails in an expedition, where we visited some of the places mentioned in the itinerary. Please scroll below to find an interactive map (not updated) of the itinerary.


Transcription & translation of ‘King Valdemar’s Itinerary’

(based on Härlin 1942 with an own translation)

De utlengi usque calmare X ukæsio. Deinde usque skægge nes II ukæsio. Hinc usque waldø IV et si placet ire per latus terre potest ire de waldø usque runø. Queque distat a waldø ad I ukæsio. Inde usque klineskær , uel diuræholtsnub I. Inde usque geishammer I. Inde usque roxhammer I. Inde usque æfra. Inde usque winø I.

From Utlängan to Kalmar 10 ukæsio. From there to Skäggenäs 2. From there to Vållö 4 and when one follows the coast one can go from Vållö to Runø. The distance from Vållö is 1 ukæsio. From there to Klämmaskär or Djurhultsnabb 1. From there to Fittjehammar 1. From there to Uthammar 1. From there to Ävrö 1. From there to Vinö 1.

De kalmare usque dyur IX. Hinc usque winø III. Hinc usque sporæ III. Hinc usque hambræ II et unum cum hambræ. Hinc usque askø I et per askø I et de askø usque quetnæ I. Hinc usque ørsund II. Hinc usque wæggi I et per wæggi I. Inde usque ulfsund I. Hinc usque rotæsund I. Inde usque alrecki II. Hinc usque brawic I. Brawic durat in longum VI ukæsio.

From Kalmar to Djur 9. From there to Vinö 3. From there to Spårö 3. From there to Halmare 2 and one past Halmare. From there to Askö 1 and past Askö 1 and from Askö to Kvädö 1. From there to Barösund 2. From there to Väggön 1 and past Väggön 1. From there to Olsösund 1. From there to Rotsundet 1. From there to Arkö 2. From there to Bråviken 1. Bråviken takes 4 in time.

Primo cum pertransitur trans brawic occurrit quedam insula winterclassæ nomine, et tunc alør. Deinde rugø. Deinde rinzø. Deinde leckæ. Deinde askø. Deinde ræueskiær. Deinde thoræ. Deinde hærihammær. Deinde usque mæthelstein II. Inde usque alæsnap II. Inde usque gardø II. Inde usque windø I et cum windø II et windø uersus austrum iacet rudmi.

After having crossed Bråviken one passes an island called Vinterklasen, and then Ålö. And then Rågö. And then Ringsö. And then Lacka. And then Askö. And then Revskär. And then Torö. And then Herrhamra. And then to Mellsten 2. And then to Älvsnabben 2. And then to Gålö 2. And then to Vindö 1 and by passing Vindö 2 and in the south of Vindö lies Runmarö.

Inde uthøi. Deinde mæthelsten. Deinde nutarn. Deinde olæ. Deinde ornæ. Deinde neffø. Deinde rudmi.

Then Utö. And then Mellsten. And then Nåtarö. And then Ålö. And then Ornö. And then Nämndö. And then Runmarö.

Inde strømsø. Inde eldø. Inde sandø. Inde brunsø.

Thence Berghamn. Then St. Jällö. Then Stavsunda. Then Träskö-Storö.

Inde enkø. Inde hærø. Inde steflø. Inde myghi.

Then Eknö. Then Harö. Then Steflø [either Lökaö or Bockö]. Then Möja.

Inde særsør. Inde husarn. Inde enlang. Inde lincer. Inde sicmar. Inde finør. Inde øslæ. Inde hoxhals. Inde widør. Inde ræfsnes. Inde arnholm.

Then Särsö. Then Husarö. Then Östra Lagnö. Then Linken. Then Sikmarö. Then Blidö. Then Yxlan. Then Oxhalsö. Then Sidö. Then Rävnäs. Then Arholma.

Et ultra brawic usque fimersund II. Inde usque ørscbac, usque rugø I. Inde usque stendor sund. Inde usque siuiæ sund. Inde usque hafø I. Inde usque fifang I. Inde usque swether sund I. Inde usque ekiholm I. Inde usque aslæsund I et per aslæsund I. Inde usque ikernsund I. Inde usque gardø I. Inde usque dalernsund I. Inde usque haricstik I. Inde usque litle swethiuthæ I. Inde usque stokholm I.

From inside Bråviken to Femöresund 2. From there to Örsbacken, to Rågö 1. From there to Västra Stendörren. From there to Sävsundet 1. From there to Hafø [?] 1. From there to Fifång 1. From there to Svärdsundet 1. From there to Ekholmen 1. From there to Yxlösund 1 and to Aslæsund 1. From there to Ikernsund [Vitgarnssund or Märsgarnssund] 1. From there to Gålö 1. From there to Dalarö Ström 1. From there to Baggenstäket 3. From there to Sveriges Holme 1. From there to Stockholm 1.

De litle swethiuthæ usque wiræsund I. Inde usque malægstagk I. Inde usque krampe sund III. Inde usque weddesund I. Inde usque arnholm II. Atque notandum est quod processus de utlengi uersus arnholm magis hebeat se ad aquilonem quam ad orientem.

From Sveriges Holme to wiræsund [Tenösund?] 1. From there to Stäksund 1. From there to Nenningesundet 3. From there to Vätö Sund 1. From there to Arholma 2. One notices that the route from Utlängan to Arholma goes more to the north than to the east.

De arnholm transmare aland usque lynæbøte VI. Inde usque thiyckækarl VIII. Notandum est quod inter thiyckækarl et lynæbøte multe iacent insule fyghelde nomine. Inde usque aspæsund VI et ibi sunt tres insule quarum una est aspæ, secunda refholm, III:a malmø et iurima iacet ultima ab eis uersus australem plagam et proxima mari. De aspæ usque ørsund VI. Inde usque hangethe III. Et notandum est quod de arnholm usque lynæbøte itur medio inter orientem et aquilonem et si prosper est uentus ab occidente potest uelificari directa linea de arnholm usque hangethe et de hangethe que finnice dicitur cumiupe usque lowicsund II. Inde usque karienkaskæ I. Inde usque iuxarö II. Inde horinsaræ quod danice dicitur hestø II. Inde usque purkal III et ad hanc insulam de hangethe itur uersus orientem et aliquantulum tamen uersus aquilonem. Item de purkal usque narigeth ultra mare estonium VI. Inde usque karlsø I et dimidia. Inde usque ræuelsburg dimidia. Et notandum quod de purkalæ usque ræuelsburg uelificandum est inter australem plagam et orientalem.

From Arholma over the sea to Ålands Hav to Lemböte 4. From there to Kökar 8. It can be noted that between Kökar and Lemböte there are many islands called Föglö. From there to Aspösund 4 and there are three island of which one is Aspö, the other refholm [Björkö?] and the third malmø and Jurmo is the most southerly nearest to the open sea. From Aspö to Ørsund [Kyrkosund i Hitis] 4. From there to Hangö 3. It should be noted that the course from Arholma to Lemböte goes north-east, and one could, if there is a favourable wind from west, sail a direct line from Arholma to Hangö , which is called in Finnish cumiupe to Tvärminne 2. From there to Hästö-Busö 1. From there to Jussarö 2. Then Horinsaari [Korpholm] 2. From there to Porkala 3. And to this island take the course from Hangö to the east but a little to the north. From Porkala across the Gulf of Finland to Nargö 6. From there to Karlö 1½. From there ½ to Tallinn. It ought to be noted that from Porkala to Tallinn it could be sailed in a south-east direction.

Pretera notandum est quod si placet potest uelificari de hangethe usque hothensholm cum uento aquilonis uersus australem plagam et orientalem. Atque ibi habet mare VIII ukæsio.

It should be noted that one could, if wished so, sail from Hangö to Odensholm with a northerly wind to south east. And this has 8 ukæsiö at sea.



Zwick, D., 2014: Auf den Spuren des ältesten See-Itinerars der Ostsee: eine archäologische Zeitreise. In: Gestrandet, Versunken, Versenkt – Faszination Unterwasserarchäologie. Neumünster 2014, 192-215.





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