Serving Sundborn: A Special Swedish Church

Sundborn Church, Sundborns Kyrka, Sundborn, Sweden

Situated on a picturesque spot by Lake Toftan are two little red buildings.  These are the church and bell-tower of Sundborn, both covered with wooden shingles, and both sitting charmingly by the water.  Although it presents a very traditional Swedish image from a distance, when you get closer, you notice small, ‘modern’ touches, like the beautiful sunflowers over the doors.  It’s just lovely.

The first church in Sundborn opened its doors in 1623, after the master miners working in the area established a church on their doorstep – the nearest one was in Svärdsjö.  The current building is from 1755, but the decoration is from 1905 and is the work of local boy, Carl Larsson.  The painting of John the Baptist is striking, and the two angels above the altar look like two local girls and have great charm.  The colours of the walls and pews are interesting, being teal/blue, but add to the general striking appearance of the church.

There is an interesting quote from Larsson about the role of the church, which shows the importance of the building in Sundborn:

We country folk really need God, church and priest.  We witness God’s miracles from close proximity, every day, and we feel completely dependent on his mercy and blessings.  If the drought is too long we reach our prayer book, and if things go our way – well, as nearly as possible, for we are never satisfied – we gladly sing a song of praise.

When our little church was closed for a few weeks for repainting, our parish was in tatters – there you see how indispensable the church is in the countryside – Karin said.

A portrait of the church’s vicar is next door, in the Hall, alongside other portraits of local worthies painted by Larsson.  The vicar looks like a serious, but approachable fellow, and you can almost sense that his sermons and counsel would have been worth hearing.

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CF Pettersson, Carl Larsson, Carl Larsson Portrait Collection, Sundborn, Sweden. He was the vicar and christened all of Larsson’s children at Midsummer 1900 all in one go in the newbuilt ‘Studio’. Before this, the vicar wouldn’t raise his hat for Larsson, but afterwards, he was allowed to call him ‘Uncle’. When Ulf died in 1905, the Reverend and Larsson’s friendship deepened.

Going outside, the free-standing bell-tower is from 1707, and belonged to the original church.  It seems quite strange to English eyes to have a separate building, but we’ve seen this quite a lot in Sweden – first of all in Skansen.

The bell tower, Sundborn Church, Sundborn, Sweden

Outside, you can also find the Larsson family grave.  It’s prominent, well-tended, but unobtrusive.  It’s just as you’d expect it to be.

So In Summary

The church is very simple, but has some lovely details and is super cosy.  If you are visiting Sundborn, it makes a natural place to visit, and it’s opposite the Picture Gallery of Carl Larsson portraits, so it makes sense to go there.  There isn’t much to it, but if you’re a Larsson fan like me, then you’ll enjoy being somewhere which was important to him and his family, and which he contributed to in such a quietly spiritual way.

Further Information

The church has information in Swedish only – and basically only on liturgical matters – available here: www.svenskakyrkan.se

How To Get There

Sundborn is a tiny place, and the church is situated by the lake, going in the opposite direction from the Carl Larsson house.  For information about getting to Sundborn, please check out my post here.

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