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Churches and Cathedrals in Gamla Stan, Stockholm, Sweden

Storkyrkan

Stockholm's cathedral since 1942, the church is situated next to the Royal Palace. It is also the Coronation Church of Sweden and has born witness to many royal weddings and state occasions. It dates back to the middle of the 13th Century, and was first mentioned in 1282. The west four bays of nave and inner aisles date from this time although much altered. The exterior of the church was given a baroque appearance to match much else in the city by J.E.Carlberg 1736-42, who also rebuilt the west tower in 1743 which is 66 metres high. The side windows were given iron Gothic tracery in a restoration of 1860.

The interior therefore comes as a surprise, with Gothic vaults and soaring brick piers. the main aisles rise to the full height (a hall church) but the outer aisles are a little lower. The nave is of four bays, and the choir a further four bays. The main vault was raised in 1470 and the west end of the south aisles have remains of frecoes. The choir and inner aisles originally ended in a single five sided apse but this was demolished in the mid-C16; a rose window now terminates the vista, placed high above the precious high altar reredos which incorporates figures and reliefs in silver, 1650. The pulpit dates from 1698 and incorporates not one but four hourglasses! Placed to the east of the pulpit, one either side, are a pair of Royal Pews with huge crowns for canopies (see picture above right) and a seven branched candlestick 3.7metres high of c1470.

A large number of superb memorials cling to the walls and piers, a selection shown in the view above. some are really quite scarey, certainly in the dusk lit by candlelight! The floor too is paved with old incised stones, much worn and very uneven underfoot!

Pride of place in my view goes to the huge depiction of St George and the Dragon to the left of the sanctuary. This was made by Bernt Notke, from Lübeck, Germany, in 1489. The princess (far left) is also part of the group and watches the scene from the ramparts of her castle. The whole is raised on a sarcophagus like base, covered in carved scenes from the story of St George.

Royal Palace Chapel

The Royal Chapel occupies part of the southern wing of the palace which stands north-east of the Storkyrkan. Guards stand outside this entrance which also serves as the entrance to the Treasury. The entrance hall is awesome, and stairs left and right sweep up to the upper floors. To the right these stairs lead to the entrance of the chapel, which is on the upper floor, appearing as two floors externally.

I took this picture from the vestibule which includes a sign saying photography is forbidden inside the chapel, which this was not! A severe looking custodian kept a watchful eye on me. It dates from 1730-51.

Finska kyrkan

On the opposite side of the square stands this small church (Finnish Church) built as a ballroom 1648-53, but used since 1725 as a church. This was unfortunately locked on both occasions I tried to visit.

Tyska kyrkan

Dedicated to St Gertrude, this is the German Church. Permission was granted by King Johan III for the Germans to form their own parish in 1571, originally worshipping at the Riddarholm church, but moving to this site in 1576 into a church converted from a guildhall which they shared with the Finnish Community until 1607 when King Karl IX granted it to the German congregation. This church was rebuilt 1638-42 into the twin-naved nearly square-in-plan church we see today. In 1878 there was a severe fire, which necessitated the rebuilding of the tower and spire, which rises to a height of 96 metres.

The interior is difficult to photograph, so I reproduce the picture in the german language brochure. This shows the huge pair of quatrefoil pillars which support the plaster vaulting and subdivide the church into twin naves. The length of the south side has a gallery, covered in 119 paintings of biblical scenes dating from 1660-65. On the north side of the church is the fine pulpit of 1660 and the Royal Gallery erected in 1672 to house German members of the Swedish Royal Family, not unlike a theatre box. Following the 1878 fire the lower part has been converted to serve as a sacristy.

Riddarholmskyrkan

On another island, linked to Gamla Stan by a bridge, is the only surviving monastic church of Stockholm. Formerly Franciscan and founded in 1270 probably by King Magnus Birgersson who was buried here, the friars left in 1527 and the church became parochial for its island. It was joined with that of the Storkyrkan in 1807 and has since been used principally for a burial and memorial church. The original friars church largely survives, amid later extensions and additions. The nave, north aisle and lengthy chancel is the original late-13th cent. church. The south aisle, much narrower than the north is the former cloister walk that adjoined, incorporated into the church in the 15th cent. A big fire in 1835 burned for several days, destroying the roof and the steeple, but the vaulting survived and preserved the interior contents. A major restoration followed by Nyström and the new tower was completed in 1846 and is capped by an openwork ironwork spire (302 ft).

In front of the altar lie two monuments of 1574 to two earlier Kings of Sweden, erected by Johan III. However it was another king, Gustav II Adolf (Gustavus Adolphus, d 1632), who decreed in 1629 that the church should become the burial place of the Royal Family, and with one exception (Queen Christina) all succeeding rulers of Sweden up to and including Gustav V (d.1950) are buried here. This necessitated three grand side chapels and crypts to be added to the chancel in the C17-C19. Also some of the dynastic families of Stockholm also created side chapels, off of the aisles, for the remains of their families. The west end of the north aisle has one such vault opened so that you can view the grand coffins.

In the crypt of the grandest (The Carolinian) Chapel N of the chancel lie amongst others Charles XI and the touchingly small coffins of his four sons, all who died in infancy. One of the richest is shown above, with the figure of a small boy on top of the coffin, the lid of which is raised to reveal the reality inside.

The walls of the chancel and north aisle are decorated with many shields, painted in full colour on metal plates. These are former members of the Order of Seraphim, founded in 1748, since by orer of the Grand Master when a knight dies his shield is hung in the church and the Seraphim bell is tolled in his memory on the day of the funeral. Among those on the east wall were shields of British monarch George VI, and in total some 700 now hang in the church.

Norrmalm

Södermalm

 

page created 27th May 2000