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GODWIN'S CLAN - 13: HAROLD'S DAUGHTER GYTHA IN THE EAST, Life With Prince Valdemar In Koenungagard (Kiev)

Updated on August 9, 2017

Koenungagard (Kiev)

Gytha with Valdemar by the River Pochaina shore, where she first arrived in Koenungagard.
Gytha with Valdemar by the River Pochaina shore, where she first arrived in Koenungagard. | Source
The Kievan Rus dominions between the Baltic and the Black Sea - extensive and in places heavily populated
The Kievan Rus dominions between the Baltic and the Black Sea - extensive and in places heavily populated | Source

Ellisif - Elisaveta - and Gytha, common goals and lives

A young Princess Ellisit comes amongst Harald's warriors
A young Princess Ellisit comes amongst Harald's warriors | Source
A more conventional Rus Orthodox image of Ellisif - Elisaveta (the 'v' in Slavic tongues is pronounced as a 'b')
A more conventional Rus Orthodox image of Ellisif - Elisaveta (the 'v' in Slavic tongues is pronounced as a 'b') | Source
A stained glass image of Gytha as a married woman - she was patron to the church of Saint Pantaleon in Cologne, and a smaller church dedicated to him was built in the Ukraine
A stained glass image of Gytha as a married woman - she was patron to the church of Saint Pantaleon in Cologne, and a smaller church dedicated to him was built in the Ukraine | Source
Grand Prince Valdemar - Vladimir - in later years, illustrated in the Rus Orthodox manner
Grand Prince Valdemar - Vladimir - in later years, illustrated in the Rus Orthodox manner | Source
The Golden Gate, where Gytha would have had her first sight of Jaroslav's city
The Golden Gate, where Gytha would have had her first sight of Jaroslav's city | Source
The great cathedral of Santa Sofia - sister church to the cathedral of Santa Sofia in Miklagard/Constantimople (Hagia Sofia, Istanbul)
The great cathedral of Santa Sofia - sister church to the cathedral of Santa Sofia in Miklagard/Constantimople (Hagia Sofia, Istanbul) | Source

A little background to Gytha's arrival in Koenungagard:

Elisaveta was a grand-daughter of Ragnheid, in turn daughter of Ragnvald Prince of Polotsk. She was given the name Ellisif after arrival in Norway with her new husband Harald Sigurdsson. Her first-born daughter, named Ingigerd after her godmother, died on hearing of her father's death at Stamford Bridge near York. Her younger daughter Maria was still un-wedded when her mother wed the Danish king Svein Estrithsson - Ellisif would have been acquainted with Svein when they reached Scandinavia by way of Sweden in the summer of AD 1045, and Svein would have found a husband for her amongst his nobles.

Around AD 1069 Gytha arrived in Roskilde with her brothers, Godwin and Eadmund by way of Dublin and Brugge (Flanders), Magnus having had to be left.behind in England to recover from wounds after the clash with Count Breon in South Devon. Svein had a new task of finding a suitable husband for a kinswoman, although Ellisif would have taken an interest in the new arrival. Her suggestion was accepted by Svein and Gytha equally.

When Gytha arrived in Koenungagard in AD 1075 - possibly using Holmgard (Novgorod) as a staging post on a long and arduous crossing through the Baltic and up the River Volkhov - her ship would have navigated the River Dnieper downriver. The ship, or ships, would have had to cross between rivers along the way, 'portage' being the usual manner where the vessels were manhandled over timber rollers. Where the River Pochaina entered the Dnieper they headed for Koenungagard to make landfall.

From the reign of Valdemar 'the Great' Koenungagard was built in two parts, the fortified upper city and the lower part named Podil. Obviously the prince lived in the upper part with the Boyars, his retainers, and his bodyguard the Grydni. As at Holmgard the lower part of the city was occupied by merchants, traders and craftsmen and fisherfolk with their families. When Gytha's ship reached Podil she probably stayed with a fellow countryman, a respected English merchant. To reach the upper city she would have had to negotiate the hill, Boryshiv Uzviz and she would have been shown where Saint Andrew preached atop the old settlement. Finally she would have arrived at the Prince's Hill and entered Jaroslav's city. Three gates led into here, the Golden Gate being the most impressive. Gytha's breath would have been taken at the sight of it. The exact whereabouts of the prince's residence is unknown, what it looked like or built of. It would have been near the cathedral of Santa Sofia, the architectural heart of Jaroslav's city. Her first son, Mstislav Harold was probably also christened here in AD 1076.

In Ukrainian sources Gytha was known as Gytha Haroldivina (Harold's daughter), signifying that - as in Old Norse tradition - her name remained unchanged. Gytha would have become acquainted with Valdemar's sister Anna, the prioress of the convent attached to the Vydubibsky Monastery, founded earlier in the 11th Century as Saint Andrew's Monastery. Anna founded a boarding school for girls here. Valdemar had a younger sister, Evpraxia, born AD 1071. In AD 1089 she wedded the German emperor Henry (Heinrich) IV. The marriage was unhappy and ended when she returned to Koenungagard to take the veil at her sister's convent.

Evpraxia was very clever, studying the medicinal qualities of herbs whilst she lived at the convent. Making draughts she cured people and became a practicing herbalist (her fractates are kept still at the library of the Academy of Science of the Ukraine). Gytha would have known E vpraxia, as would her son Mstislav Harold. Being raised together they would have played in Gytha's company.

Another of Valdemar's sisters was Maria, who wedded one of the Wendish kings. Maria Vselodovna owned a residence on the northern outskirts of the city. She founded the monastery of Saint Cyril with its church in AD 1060, named after Cyril of Alexandria. There was a name connection between Saint Cyril and her father, also Cyril. Valdemar may have had the Christian name of Cyril or Constantin (the Russian alphabet is 'Cyrillic'). There is a large fresco of Constantin 'Monomakh' to the right of the doorway inside the church. As all Valdemar' sisters, Maria was well educated, fluent in several languages including Greek and Latin. She was intelligent and could give sound advice to her husband where needed. Maria was interred in the church of Saint Cyril [info from M Berlinski, 'The History of the City of Kiev').

Valdemar, was the son of Vsyevolod, grandson of Jaroslav 'the Wise'. He was also Ellisif's great nephew. Ellisif and Vsyevolod shared many common trait. Both were clever, rational and gifted. At the time Gytha showed in Roskilde Ellisif may have been on the lookout for a fitting match for her nephew.

.[Some information on Gytha and Valdemar/Vladimir in Kiev and Ellisif in Scandinavia was furnished by Larissa Shakhova in the Ukraine through online correspondence]

New directions

Valdemar in his robes of state at a later age
Valdemar in his robes of state at a later age | Source
Mstilav Harold, Grand Prince of Kiev from AD 1125
Mstilav Harold, Grand Prince of Kiev from AD 1125 | Source
A conventional Kievan illustration of Mstislav I, Vladimirovich 'the Great'
A conventional Kievan illustration of Mstislav I, Vladimirovich 'the Great' | Source
Wood carving of a noblewoman, thought to be Gytha
Wood carving of a noblewoman, thought to be Gytha | Source
The church of Saint Pantaleon/Pantaleimon at Shevchenkove, Ukraine, built in thanks for the saint's intervention after Mstilav was attacked by a bear during hunting
The church of Saint Pantaleon/Pantaleimon at Shevchenkove, Ukraine, built in thanks for the saint's intervention after Mstilav was attacked by a bear during hunting | Source

On a summer's day AD 1076 Gytha gave birth to her first child she named Harold. His Rus name was Mstislav, and he was given the baptismal names Harold Theodore

Gytha's husband was a prince of the Kievan Rus and Prince of Smolensk known in Scandinavia as Valdemar. In Koenungagard or Kiev he was Vladimir. He would later become ruler and Grand Prince of the Kievan Rus in a region that reached south from the Baltic to the Black Sea.

The world Gytha married into was Byzantine in its complexity. The Rus were once Svear or Swedish Vikings - Varangians* - led by a warrior named Rurik, who were asked to take the reins in the east during the 9th Century (much in the same way the Jute Hengist and Horsa were asked to do in southern Britain four centuries earlier). Over the next two hundred years they fought one another as well as external foes such as the Wends (now known as Poles). The Kievan Rus became fragmented, with feuding, intrigue and warfare that made pre-Conquest England seem tame and ordered by comparison.

Gytha and her young husband Valdemar would have spoken Danish to one another. Like his father Valdemar spoke several languages, and Gytha's second language would have been Danish through her grandmother Gytha. Between fighting Valdemar fighting his father they had more children, later to marry into dynasties throughout Northern Europe and Scandinavia. Mstislav Harold became Grand Prince after his father's death in AD 1125. He wedded the Swedish princess Christina Ingesdottir in AD 1095 and through his daughter Euphrosyne Mstislav became an ancestor of Edward III of England.

In AD 1097 Mstislav was badly injured after being mauled by a bear, hardly able to breathe when rescued. Gytha wanted to nurse him herself when Saint Pantaleon/Pantaleimon appeared to her son in a vision and told that he had come to heal him. On hearing of the vision, Gytha felt assured of her son's safety. She had been a benefactor of the monastery of Saint Pantaleon in Cologne and knew of the saint's healing powers. After Mstislav's recovery she undertook to go on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. However she went after the city fell to the First Crusade. Her route would have taken her overland to Constantinople and by sea to Anatolia (Turkish from AD 1453), and maybe by sea again by way of Cyprus to Jaffa (now Haifa). This was the route taken in the early 1100s by the earliest known pilgrim from Kiev, Danylo the abbot of the Rus monastery of Chernigov. Gytha went finally on a later Crusade to Jerusalem, dying there AD 1107.

**According to one source - Wikipedia - Gytha is said to have been involved in the First Crusade. By this time - AD 1198 - her son Mstislav would have been twenty-one years old.

***Valdemar completed his 'morals', addressed to his offspring, in AD 1106. One of the sentences tell us: 'Love your wife, but do not give her much power over you'. His second wife after Gytha was Evphimia of Constantinople, who may have given rise to this advice.

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*See also "VIKING - 6: IN THE PAY OF EASTERN EMPERORS, Varangian Guard From Early Times"

The way south...

This is Danylo's account of his pilgrimage to Jerusalem, undertaken after the city was taken by the First Crusade...
This is Danylo's account of his pilgrimage to Jerusalem, undertaken after the city was taken by the First Crusade... | Source

Also involved in the First Crusade

...were Robert 'Curthose', son of William I, and Eadgar 'the Aetheling'. When they left William 'Rufus' was still on the throne of England. Out of friendship Robert gave Eadgar lands in Normandy. Eadgar lived out his days in an England ruled by a more 'Anglo-friendly' Henry I, who had been born at Selby when his mother and father were on their way around the kingdom. It is possible also that Harold' youngest son Ulf/Wulf went with Eadgar and Robert, although there is little written about him.

The First Crusade

The taking of Jerusalem under the leadership of Godfrey de Boudillon. Robert and Eadgar are likely to have been with him
The taking of Jerusalem under the leadership of Godfrey de Boudillon. Robert and Eadgar are likely to have been with him | Source

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