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Old August 31st, 2013, 02:46 AM   #1
Adde
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Medieval parish churches of Sweden

Sweden has got a wealth of well preserved medieval parish churches dotted around the countryside. These are often simple in architecture, built by the peasants of the surrounding villages or a local aristocratic family. Despite their simplicity in architecture and size, they're an important cultural and historical heritage and well worth a presentation here on the site.

Today there's about 1,380 medieval churches left in Sweden, of an estimated original 2,350.

I'm planning on presenting a random sample of these churches here. Anybody is welcome to ad pictures if they want to.

First up is Norrsunda church in Uppland province just north of Stockholm.

This church was built in the 12th century. It's a so called "East-tower church", which means that the tower is at the eastern end of the church. This suggest that the church was built by royal initiative. The tower, choir and 2/3 of the nave is 12th century. The nave was extended around 1450, and a porch and a sacristy was built around the same time. In 1633 a mausoleum for the Sparre family was built on the south wall of the nave.

The murals inside the church were painted between 1300-1450.

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Norrsunda kyrka allt by Udo Schröter, on Flickr

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Church in Norrsunda Sweden 1/7 2007 by photoola, on Flickr

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20070220-H by Heinrock, on Flickr


Norrsunda kyrka int2 [Public domain], by Ulkl (Ulf Klingström), from Wikimedia Commons
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Old August 31st, 2013, 03:27 AM   #2
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Next up is Husaby church in Västergötland province.

This church was built in the 12th century. The first part to be built was the tower in the late 11th or early 12th century. It's a so-called "defensive tower", built to function as a refuge in case of armed conflict. It has several levels of rooms that could function as living quarters, and they were accessed by two easily defendable narrow spiral stairs on each side of the tower. The nave was built in the Romanesque style in the 12th century.

According to certain sources, the first Christian king of Sweden, Olof Skötkonung (ruled 995-1022 AD), was baptised at an earlier stave church on the same site as Husaby church.

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Husaby Kyrka by Vandra på Kinnekulle, on Flickr

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Husaby Kyrka by Vandra på Kinnekulle, on Flickr

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Husaby kyrka, Husaby, Sweden, May 2009 by talgoxe58, on Flickr

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Västergötland by autumnal fires, on Flickr


Husaby kyrka 20090523-07 [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], by Hans A. Rosbach (Own work), from Wikimedia Commons
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Old August 31st, 2013, 01:14 PM   #3
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This is Bjälbo church in Östergötland province.

Bjälbo church was probably built by Birger Brosa, Jarl (earl) of Sweden 1174-1202 and owner of the Bjälbo estate. He was the uncle of Birger Jarl, founding father and first ruler of the Folkunga line of kings.

The church has got a defensive tower built in the 1220's. It's six stories high, with the lower two (above the ground floor) originally serving as living quarters, with the upper stories used for grain storage.

Bjälbo church was renovated in 1786, when the choir at the end of the nave was added to the church. The interior of the church reflects this renovation in the Gustavian fashion.

image hosted on flickr

Bjälbo Kyrka by Lars-Ove Törnebohm, on Flickr

image hosted on flickr

. by mariae baltica, on Flickr

Detail of the original 13th century church door:

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. by mariae baltica, on Flickr


Bjälbo kyrka nave [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], by Xauxa Håkan Svensson (Own work), from Wikimedia Commons

image hosted on flickr

Runsten Ög 66, Bjälbo kyrka by Bochum1805, on Flickr

A runestone that was found in the wall of the church. It dates from around the year 1000 AD and the inscription says:

Quote:
Ingivaldr raised this stone in memory of Styfjaldr, his brother, an excellent lad, the son of Spjallboði. I proclaim the promise fulfilled.
Two other runstones have also been found at the church.
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Old August 31st, 2013, 11:08 PM   #4
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Garde church is one of 92 medieval churches still in use on Gotland, an island in the Baltic.

The church is a so-called "saddle-church", named for their unusual shape, with both tower and choir taller than the nave. In some saddle-churches, the choir is a proper tower in its own right.

The nave and the lower parts of the tower were built in the 12th century, with the roof structure of the nave having been dated to 1140 AD through dendrochronology (tree rings). The tower was finished in the 13th century, and in the 15th century the large gothic choir was extended to its current size. There are partially preserved Byzantine wall paintings dating to the 1100's in the nave.

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Garde kyrka by Anders Lennver, on Flickr

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d1102100 by m-klueber.de, on Flickr

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d1102103 by m-klueber.de, on Flickr

Byzantine wall paintings, 1100's:

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d1102116 by m-klueber.de, on Flickr

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d1102108 by m-klueber.de, on Flickr
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Old August 31st, 2013, 11:37 PM   #5
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I like this thread. These churches are in excellent condition.

Scandinavian church architecture is fascinating.
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Old September 1st, 2013, 02:29 AM   #6
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Thank you!

Indeed, Swedish churches are generally very well taken care of. With almost 1,400 medieval buildings in its care (and another 1,000 or so newer churches dating to the 17th-21st century), the Church of Sweden is very good at what it does. It also works very closely with local antiquarian authorities to ensure the care of the buildings.
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Old September 1st, 2013, 07:23 PM   #7
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This thread is really wonderful!

I'm very impressed with the Byzantine wall paintings. Has Sweden ever been ruled by the Byzantine Empire?
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Old September 1st, 2013, 07:24 PM   #8
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Next up is Bromma church in Uppland province, today a suburb of Stockholm.

Bromma church is one of eight surviving medieval round-churches in Sweden. A round-church is characterized by a central round tower that constitutes the main body of the church, doubling up as both a religious and defensive structure.

The round-tower of Bromma church was built in the second half of the 12th century. Originally, the ground level was the church room, the second floor was a refuge for parishioners in case of attack, and instead of the current tower hood the top of the building was a crenelated platform from which the church was defended.

In the middle of the 15th century a nave and a sacristy were added to the church. Around 1480 the master painter Albertus Pictor decorated the interior of the church with scenes from the Bible. The current tower-hood with its spire was added at the end of the 17th century, and a medieval chancel was torn down and replaced with a new mausoleum in 1728.


Bromma kyrka april 2013 [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], by Arild Vågen (Own work), from Wikimedia Commons

image hosted on flickr

DSC_4520 by David.Kungsholmen, on Flickr

The inside of the 12th century central tower:


Bromma kyrka 2013i [CC0], by Jssfrk (Own work), from Wikimedia Commons

Inside the 15th century nave:

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Bromma Church, Stockholm by linkahwai, on Flickr

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DSC_4506_cut1 by David.Kungsholmen, on Flickr
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Old September 1st, 2013, 07:42 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jasper90 View Post
This thread is really wonderful!

I'm very impressed with the Byzantine wall paintings. Has Sweden ever been ruled by the Byzantine Empire?
Thanks!

No, Sweden has never been ruled by the Byzantine Empire. The wall paintings at Garde church are called "Byzantine" because of the particular style they're done in.

There were quite a close connection between Scandinavia and the Byzantine empire in the early medieval period though. The so-called Varangian Guard, the personal bodyguard of the Byzantine Emperor from the 10th to the 14th century, was initially almost exclusively made up of Scandinavian warriors. The vikings called the Byzantine Empire "Greece" and Constantinople was called "Miklagardr" (which literately translates to "The great city"). Byzantine objects were therefor pretty common in Scandinavia in the 10th, 11th and 12th centuries, and lots of people had actually been to Constantinople at some point in their lives, which explains the Byzantine influence in some early medieval church art and architecture in Sweden.
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Old September 3rd, 2013, 10:38 PM   #10
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The next church is unusually grand for a parish church. It is Vreta abbey church in Östergötland province.

The first parts of Vreta church was probably built on initiative by the king Inge the Older around the year 1110 AD. The church was a basilica with a three-isle nave, a west tower, a transept and a chancel. Soon after a circular, domed mausoleum was built, probably for the royal Stenkil family, who had a royal manor in Vreta.

Around 1100, the king and his wife had donated land in Vreta for a new benedictine abbey, and the church was soon expanded for use by the nuns of the abbey. The church was extended to the east with a large cross-shaped chancel. The abbey was consecrated in 1162, but had by then become a cistercian abbey.

The church and abbey was damaged by fire in both 1247 and 1432. Each fire resulted in alterations of the church architecture, for instance the nave, originally built as a basilica with a flat roof, was turned into a hall-church with a vaulted roof after the 1247 fire.

Throughout the medieval period grave monuments and mausoleums were added for royalty and upper nobility.

After the reformation, Vreta abbey was disbanded and the abbey buildings, except for the church, were torn down. The church became a parish church. The next couple of centuries saw few changes to the church except for the construction of a new mausoleum for a local noble family in 1663.

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Vreta klosters kyrka by PG63, on Flickr

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Vreta Kloster kyrka by andbense, on Flickr

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Vreta klosters kyrka 2011 by toreboxholm, on Flickr

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IMG_10785_6_7_ETM_F / Vreta Kloster - Sweden by Dan//Fi, on Flickr

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DSC01584 by paul.johansson61, on Flickr
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Old September 4th, 2013, 06:44 PM   #11
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Great thread, very interesting.
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Old September 5th, 2013, 05:48 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Adde View Post
Thanks!

No, Sweden has never been ruled by the Byzantine Empire. The wall paintings at Garde church are called "Byzantine" because of the particular style they're done in.

There were quite a close connection between Scandinavia and the Byzantine empire in the early medieval period though. The so-called Varangian Guard, the personal bodyguard of the Byzantine Emperor from the 10th to the 14th century, was initially almost exclusively made up of Scandinavian warriors. The vikings called the Byzantine Empire "Greece" and Constantinople was called "Miklagardr" (which literately translates to "The great city"). Byzantine objects were therefor pretty common in Scandinavia in the 10th, 11th and 12th centuries, and lots of people had actually been to Constantinople at some point in their lives, which explains the Byzantine influence in some early medieval church art and architecture in Sweden.

Interesting. That interior design is stunning, and is in superb condition.

I assume these are Lutheran churches. I am very glad that the Lutherans enjoyed and used beautiful art in churches as the Catholic Church did and does.

I hope there was no destruction of art during the Reformation in Sweden.
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Old September 6th, 2013, 03:03 PM   #13
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Yes, these are all lutheran churches today, belonging to the lutheran Church of Sweden. But they were all of course catholic when they were built during the medieval period.

An unusually large amount of church art survived the reformation in Sweden, and today we've actually got one of the biggest (if not the biggest) collections of medieval church art in the world. But there certainly was a lot of destruction of art all the same. When the king Gustav Vasa reformed the church in the 1520's and 30's, he had virtually all monasteries and abbeys disbanded, and many of them torn down. Those that weren't torn down immediately were often used as quarries for stone and brick during the following centuries. So we lost those.

Then there's the church gold and silver. Most parish churches had impressive collections of medieval gold and silver objects. Many of those collections were confiscated by the state, melted down and added to the state coffers during the reformation.

The medieval wall paintings you can see in many of the pictures became unfashionable in the 18th century, and were often plastered over to create lighter, more modern interiors in the churches. The paintings have then been recovered during 20th century renovations, but they are often quite fragmentary.
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Old September 6th, 2013, 10:13 PM   #14
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Many small, poorer parishes waited until the 13th and 14th centuries to replace their wooden churches with stone structures. These small, simple churches often lack a church tower, instead the church bell hangs in a separate timbered bellfry.

One example of such a church is Häverö church in Uppland province.

Häverö church was built around the year 1300 and is a simple hall-church consisting of a rectangular nave, a sacristy and a porch. It's built of roughly cut granit, with brick details around doors and windows as well as in the upper part of the gables.

An earlier wooden church was found during an archaeological excavation under the floor of the church in the 1970's. This wooden church was a small rectangular building, only 7x7 meters big.

The interior of the church is covered in wall paintings done by the school of Albertus Pictor in the second half of the 15th century, and the church owns a high-quality altarpiece made in Antwerp between 1500 and 1525.

image hosted on flickr

RAS 166 by newnumenor, on Flickr

image hosted on flickr

Häverö church by *Kicki*, on Flickr


Häverö kyrka05 [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], by Einarspetz (Own work), from Wikimedia Commons

Notice the altarpiece behind the altar:

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Häverö church in Uppland, Sweden by Someday man, on Flickr
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Old September 7th, 2013, 11:42 AM   #15
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Great thread!

Beautiful churches and good info aswell. Looking forward to see more.
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Old September 8th, 2013, 09:01 PM   #16
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Next up is Brunnby church in Skåne (Scania) province.

Brunnby church was first built in the 12th century in the romanesque style, and was made up of a nave and a choir. The tower was added in the 15th century, as was the north transept. Another transept was added in 1752.

The church is decorated with 15th century wall paintings.

image hosted on flickr

The church from south-east by vanstaffs, on Flickr

image hosted on flickr

Brunnby kyrka / Brunnby church, Sweden by Frans.Sellies, on Flickr

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The tower and main entrance heading west by vanstaffs, on Flickr

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Brunnby Church 34 by dekayne, on Flickr

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The nave of the church with the pulpit dated 1623 to the left by vanstaffs, on Flickr

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View to the altar from main wing by vanstaffs, on Flickr
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Old September 9th, 2013, 08:53 PM   #17
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I like the color scheme and the wonderful interior design. The beautiful arches turn it into masterwork.
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“The meaning of earthly existence lies not, as we have grown used to thinking, in prospering but in the development of the soul.”
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"We are more closely connected to the invisible than to the visible"

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Old September 13th, 2013, 07:48 PM   #18
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Kalix church in Norrbotten province is the northernmost medieval church in Sweden. Kalix lies 771 km (480 miles) north of Stockholm (as the crow flies), at 65 degrees north (just south of the Arctic Circle at 66 degrees north).

Kalix church was built in the middle of the 15th century, replacing an earlier wooden church. It's a simple hall church with decorated brick gables and rib vaulting. The church was plundered by Russian soldiers in 1716, and used by the Russians as a stable during the Finnish War of 1808-09.

The wooden belfry was built in 1731 and served, before an extension of the church yard, as the entrance to the cemetery.


Kalix kyrka view [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], by Xauxa (Håkan Svensson) (Own work), from Wikimedia Commons


Kalix kyrka view2 [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], by Xauxa (Håkan Svensson) (Own work), from Wikimedia Commons

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Kalix 16 th century church by Björn Palovaara, on Flickr

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Winter in Kalix (5) by Parasit, on Flickr
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Old September 13th, 2013, 09:21 PM   #19
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Very nice thread.
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Old September 14th, 2013, 12:34 AM   #20
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Våmbs church in Västergötland province was built in the first half of the 12th century. It's a small limestone church in the romanesque stile with a tower (added at the end of the 12th century) and a semi-circular chancel.

Traditionally it is said that the church was built by St. Elin of Skövde, a 12th century saint who is said to have owned an estate in Våmb. According to the legend, Elin was a pious widow who after her husband's death donated generously to the church in Skövde town. One of Elin's daughters was physically abused by her husband. This angered the people in the village, who therefor killed the husband. His family and friends blamed Elin for the man's death, and they avenged it by killing Elin when she was on her way to the consecration of a new church.

Elin was buried in Skövde, and soon miracles started to take place by her grave. She is said to have been canonized by Pope Alexander III around the year 1164. Her cult was popular in Scandinavia but unknown outside the region. Her feast day was July 30 or 31, depending on where you were.

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Våmbs kyrka by Bruno Hagelsten, on Flickr



The church in the early 1900's:


Våmbs kyrka och stenvalvsbron över Våmbsbäcken (RAÄ-nr Våmb 50-1) 1910 [Public domain], by Postcard, from Wikimedia Commons
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