The museum came into existence after a major archaeological investigation which took place in advance of the rebuilding of the Riksdag (Swedish Parliament) and the building of garages under the present-day gardens of Riksplan. Among all the remains which came to light were parts of the Town Wall which Gustavus Vasa had built in the 1530s as well as the churchyard of the medieval Helgeandshuset (House of the Holy Spirit), which originally gave its name to the island.
The County Administrative Board decided that these remains should be preserved as permanent heritage monuments. This was how the Medieval Museum came about. The State bore the building costs while the City of Stockholm dealt with the fittings and fixtures, displays and running costs.
The “National Pit”
The archaeological investigations on Helgeandsholmen from 1978—1980 are the most comprehensive so far undertaken in the inner city area of Stockholm. The investigations were carried out in connection with the rebuilding of the Riksdag in preparation for moving back to the island. Altogether an area of 8,000 square metres was investigated and when the project was completed a volume of some 50,000 metres of earth had been dug through and carried away. The excavations made it possible to follow the development of settlement in the area from the mid thirteenth century to the present day.
Most eye catching were the foundations of buildnings, above all from seventeenth century palaces, which had already come to light in the early stages of the work. Among the most remarkable finds, however, were the medieval churchyard of Helgeandhuset with some 7 metric tons of skeletons, and Gustavus Vasa’s town wall from around 1530. No less than 11 boats were also found. The excavations aroused great attention and debate in the press and were soon christened “Riksgropen” (the National Pit).
The debate was mainly a matter of what one was to do with the cavity and the remains of the buildings after investigations had been completed. Originally the idea had been to have a garage for the Riksdag with a reception area for goods and workshops. Now it ended up with the most remarkable remains — the Vasa Wall and the churchyard wall — being preserved, and an underground museum being built around them.
The Medieval Museum opened for the first time in 1986. It was renovated and reopened in 2010.