Stockholm has a fascinating medieval Cathedral known as Storykyrkn (the great church), which is dedicated to St. Nicholas. It was built in 1279 on the highest hill in the old city, on an island called Stadsholmen. Originally Catholic, the Cathedral has since 1527 been a Lutheran church. It’s located next to the Royal Castle in Stockholm’s old town (Gamla Stan) and has born witness to many of the highlights of Swedish history. It’s still an active church, with religious services and concerts, and places for meditation and prayer. The wedding of Crown Princess Victoria and Prince Daniel took place here in 2010, as did her parent’s wedding in 1976.
The church has been rebuilt and remodeled over the years, but has been in its present size and shape since 1480. It was updated to a Baroque appearance in the middle of the 17th century in an attempt to harmonize its exterior with the recently rebuilt castle next door. The plaster from the columns of the interior of the church were removed a century ago to restore more of the cathedral’s original look.
A statue outside the eastern face of the church commerates of one of its early ministers, scholar and reformer Olaus Petri; it was installed in the 19th century. Petri was instrumental in translating the Bible into Swedish. The plaque behind him gives the history of the church (in Swedish).
The interior of the church is beautiful and worth some time to explore. Here are some of the interesting items to look out for:
1) St. George and the Dragon:
The most spectacular work of art within the Storkyrkan is the sculpture of Saint George and the Dragon, created in 1489 by Bernt Notke from Lübeck. It is carved from oak, painted and partly gilded, and contains elements of elk (moose) antlers and horse hair. The sculpture is quite large and shows Saint George as a knight on horseback killing a dragon and saving the Virgin.
The work was commissioned by the imperial administrator Sten Sture to commemorate the battle on Brunkeberg, in which the attacking Danish troops were crushed by the Swedes in 1471, saving Stockholm from destruction. The symbolism of Sten Sture (St. George) saving Stockholm from the monstrous Danes is apparent.
2) The Silver Altar:
A lovely large winged altar made of ebony and decorated with silver is a highlight of the church. The central section of this altar was made in Germany. Its sculptured reliefs include the Last Supper, the Crucifixion of Christ, statues of Moses and John the Baptist, among other Biblical scenes.
It was donated to the Cathedral in the 1650s by Johan Adler Salvius, a diplomat, and his wife Margareta Pedersdotter, a rich widow.
3) The Royal Pews:
In the central nave there are two ornate royal pews, facing each other across the central aisle, which were created in 1684 by Burchart Precht in the Baroque fashion. They are used only by members of the royal family on special occasions.
4) The Pulpit:
The same artist who created the Royal Pews crafted this elaborate pulpit around 1700.
5) The Seven Branched Candlestick:
A large candelabra, measuring 3.7 m tall and made of bronze, sits near the altar. It’s more than 600 years old. I thought its base was quite interesting.
6) The Crucifixion and The Last Judgement:
Painted in the late 17th century by David Klocker von Ehrenstrahl. These two paintings were originally displayed in the Chapel of the Royal Palace but were rescued from the fire that destroyed the Palace in 1697. They were donated to the Cathedral in 1777.
7) The Candle Globe:
A rather interesting candle-filled sphere which provided our first puzzle clue. It was created by Torolf Engstrom and has been in the church since 1972.
8) The Parhelion Painting (Vädersolstavlan):
On April 20, 1535, an unusual phenomenon occurred in Stockholm. Six rings of light (parhelia, or sun dogs) were observed in the skies over the city. People were frightened by this phenomenon and migrated to the church for guidance. The minister of the cathedral, Olaus Petri commissioned the painting, the first to show the city of Stockholm. The painting on display in the Cathedral is a reproduction made in 1630. No one knows exactly what happened to the original.
9) The Organ:
The façade of the organ was created in 1789. The organ in current use was built in 1960.
The rose window above and behind the Silver Altar was made in Paris in the 1850s, the first of several modern stained windows in the church contributed by various donors.
As with many churches, there are numerous graves within the structure, a few of which are shown here.
There are many interesting places to visit in Stockholm, but this lovely old church was one of my favorites.
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