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Varnhem Monastery and Kata Farm

The 12th century Varnhem Abbey is one of the most visited destinations in Skara. From the abbey, you can continue among the ruins of the monastery and up to Kata Farm. Suddenly, beneath your feet, you will come across an even older church and the remains of a Viking woman who was a prominent figure here in early Christianity.

Old arches, columns and walls are covered in toadflax, sedum and silky wall feather-moss. The ruins of the Cistercian monk cells are like a great maze, perfect for playing hide and seek. Follow the conduits where water from a source was led to the kitchen and washroom (where the monks shaved their heads.) The signage will help you envisage how they ate their vegetarian meals in the five-metre-high stone refectory under a vow of silence. In a corner of the cemetery is a simple museum and on the hill behind it is Kata Farm, which opened in 2017. The thousand-year-old church ruins have been given a glass roof to walk on. This is the oldest church in Sweden; it existed here before the monastery was built. Look down on the skeleton of Kata, a Viking woman who ran the farm in the 11th century. The history of this site is evocatively recounted with the help of signs, film footage, stones and bones. To follow the Viking Age by walking on glass while seeing the monastery through the tall windows feels like moving between different time dimensions.

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