Tuesday, 15 June 2010

What to see: Stockholm Cathedral, Stockholm

Many eyes will be on the Cathedral of Stockholm on Saturday when Crown Princess Victoria marries Daniel Westling. The ceremony will be the latest of many historical events which have taken place in this church.
“Storkyrkan”, as it is called in Swedish (meaning literally “the Great Church”), was first mentioned in 1279 and was then called St Nikolai after the patron saint of the seafarers. Since then it has been much altered, expanded and rebuilt, including a tower which was begun around 1420. Later fourteen side chapels were integrated into the church itself. It received the status of a cathedral in 1942 when the Diocese of Stockholm was founded
The Cathedral is situated next to the Royal Palace, but in a rather unfortunate position. The façade facing Slottsbacken is actually the backside of the Cathedral, while the main entrance faces Trångsund, a very narrow street with no room for spectators at grand events like Saturday’s wedding.
Already Gustaf I wanted to demolish the church in order to gain a direct firing line from the old castle and later kings up to Gustaf III have also toyed with the idea of having the church demolished in order to build a new one which would fit better into their plans for a royal city.
In 1736-1742 the architect Johan Eberhard Carlberg altered the church to the baroque style to harmonise better with the new Royal Palace which was built in 1697-1754. During a renovation in 1903-1908 the whitewashed walls were stripped bare to reveal the red brick, something which was very fashionable at the time but does not harmonise with the original architectural intention.
Among the star sights of the Cathedral are the two royal chairs, seen in the third picture, designed by Nicodemus Tessin the Younger and executed by Burchardt Precht of Bremen in 1684-1686, and Bernt Notke’s sculpture of St George and the Dragon (fourth photo), unveiled on New Year’s Eve 1489.
The first coronation to take place in this church happened in 1336 and eventually it took over Uppsala Cathedral’s position as the coronation church. The last Swedish king to be crowned was Oscar II, whose coronation took place in this church in 1872.
It has also been the scene of numerous royal weddings, including three which also took place on the date 19 June – those of the future Oscar I and Joséphine of Leuchtenberg in 1823, of the future Carl XV and Louise of the Netherlands in 1850 and of Carl XVI Gustaf and Silvia Sommerlath in 1976. The most sumptuous royal wedding so far was probably that of Princess Ingrid to Crown Prince Frederik (IX) of Denmark in 1935.
While Riddarholmen Church was the traditional burial church for Swedish royals, the Cathedral has been the scene of the funerals of Crown Princess Margareta, Prince Gustaf Adolf, Prince Carl, Princess Ingeborg, Queen Louise and King Gustaf VI Adolf and the coffin of Crown Princess Margareta rested in the Cathedral for two years until it was transferred to the Royal Burial Ground at Haga in 1922.

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