Every year, since the last ice cap in northern Scandinavia, the land in the Luleå area rises centimeter by centimeter. Not much, but since the Church Town of Gammelstad (Old Town) was established the shoreline has dropped several meters. Thus the distance to the sea has become greater centennial by centennial. If you live long enough and travel to the new town – Luleå – you will see the city either moved or far from the sea. Hopefully, before that time, you can visit Gammelstad Church Town. A town I find interesting for at least three reasons.
Number one, the existence of church towns like this is a phenomenon special to northern Scandinavia. There are many churches built for political purposes in the north. The church in the Luleå area was a way for Sweden to secure a border between itself and Russia. The salmon and fur of the area were major export goods and made northern Sweden economically interesting in the 14th century. Hand in hand; Economic, political and religious interest laid the foundation for 71 church towns of Sweden.
Sparsely populated, people had to travel long distances to the more or less mandatory church services. Surrounding the Nederluleå (Lower Luleå) church are more than 400 cottages. The guide at Gammelstad Church Town in 2012, Daniela Truttmann, said that the parish had the size of the Benelux countries. Today, with cars and buses, living in a geographic large parish is not a problem. Until the beginning of the 20th century, many people came by horse transport. Hitherto, horse stables were as important as the one night cottages. The people could not attend church services without staying at least one night on their trip. Thus, the common people had the right (obligation) to build their own cottage and accommodation in the church town.
Number two, the church was completed in 1492. This was also built by the people of the parish. The monumental building has one asset that I find fascinating. The church was built in the Catholic era of Sweden and is now a part of the Lutheran era of Sweden. The beautiful interior from the Catholic era survived the Reformation of Sweden. Sweden left the Roman Catholic Church in 1526 and became Lutheran in 1593 after the Uppsala meeting. On our visit in 2012, we were not able to go inside the church. The church is very popular and on this day wedding bells were ringing all the time. But, I have been there before. Some of the art work inside the church is inspired by the famous late medieval German/Swedish painter Albertus Pictor (1440 – 1507). The altar screen, built in Antwerp around 1520, is possibly one of the most beautiful in the north.
Number three, the importance of the Gammelstad Church Town has been acknowledged by UNESCO. After a meeting on December 7th, 1996, The World Heritage Committee said: “Gammelstad Church Town is an outstanding example of the traditional church towns in northern Scandinavia. It excellently illustrates the adaptation of traditional town planning to the special geographic and climatologic conditions in an unfavorable natural environment”.
Only 16 of the church towns of Sweden are left. Gammelstad Church Town lives on: An inspirational old place to tie new friends and create new stories.
What do you fancy about Gammelstad Church Town?
Three Things That Make Gammelstad Church Town So Special