- The English Church of St. Peter and St. Sigfrid was originally built in 1866
- In 1913, it was moved stone by stone from Norrmalm to its current location
- The church now stands on an old military cemetery protected as a historic site
What we attempt to do here at Trevl is tell you unique stories of places around us and that way help you realise that everyday places are more interesting than you thought. In this post, I bring you a true gem among stories of historical places in Stockholm. Seriously, parts of this story could hardly get any more exciting. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves though, and start from the beginning.
With the arrival of the first English diplomats to Sweden, in the mid-17th century, the Anglican worship was brought to the country. As we probably all know, beginnings are tough and things were no different for the English who wanted to practice their faith outside of their homeland at the time. For quite some time, the services used to be held by a pair of chaplains directly in the residence of the English ambassador to Sweden, Bulstrode Whitelocke.
Circumstances were evolving and the Anglicans reached an agreement with a French pastor in Stockholm. Consequently, in the late 1600s, they formed a congregation which used to hold services in both English and French.
Less than a century after the worship was established in Sweden, in 1741, the Anglican Church petitioned King of Sweden Frederick I (Fredrik I) for the right to worship publicly. The story suggests that Frederick I was a man with a sense of fairness as he issued the permit sought by the church at least partially on the grounds of the fact that Swedish Church already existed in London at the time.
Interestingly, every English ship captain who arrived in Stockholm between 1706 and 1871 contributed 24 riksdaler to the church, which is how the organisation was funded.
Still, it took another century for the first regularly ordained English clergyman, Chaplain Frederick Spurrell, to come to Stockholm. This is when things started looking serious for the Church and shortly after, the congregation began collecting funds for the construction of their own church. Thanks, in part, to the generous mood of the British government, the Anglicans purchased a land on Wallingatan, formerly known as Rörstrandsgatan, in Stockholm’s Norrmalm district.
Once the site was ready and plans of the Scottish architect James Souttar were accepted, the construction of the first and only Anglican Church in Stockholm progressed rather swiftly. It was carried out in three years between 1863 and 1866, and inaugurated in the presence of many Swedish bishops. Services were held in the new church regularly, though it sometimes had to be closed for the winter months when the heating bills became too high.
However, it soon became clear that the chosen location was far from ideal. At the time, the neighbourhood housed numerous venues for adult entertainment as well as popular pubs and a jail. Coming to the most intriguing part of the story, I want to point out that the approach of the church authorities to solving problems shall inspire many of us even some hundred and fifty years later.
When they realised that the location was inappropriate for a religious institution, they looked for a solution and were not afraid of taking the hard road. Several officials proposed moving the entire building to another location, which is what they eventually did. With the help of Swedish Crown Princess Margaret, the English Church of St. Peter and St. Sigfrid was moved stone by stone to an old military cemetery located by the ‘Diplomatic City’ (Diplomatstaden) in the Östermalm district in 1913.
The current location of the church is an old cemetery from the 1800s where several thousand soldiers, mostly young boys, were buried. The largest number of soldiers passed away in the military hospital on Kungsholmen between 1841 and 1914. Afterwards, the military cemetery was moved to Silverdal. Although only 59 gravestones have been preserved, the site is now protected as historic heritage.
In the nine-month-long process, a vestry was added to the original design of the church and the nave was slightly extended. In this exclusive location near, among other places, the British Embassy, we can admire a structure that can hardly be compared to others in Sweden. The building is made of sandstone essentially inside and out, including the torn spire. The difference between the materials used in the exterior and the interior is that while reddish sandstone from Södertälje was used on the outside, stone brought from Motala was used in the interior.
Among other interesting features of the English Church, there is the large window on the western side depicting the life, work, and faith of Queen of Scotland St. Margaret dedicated to Crown Princess of Sweden Margaret. Moreover, you will find numerous stained-glass windows in the building, some of which made it to the church all the way from London. Others are works of the renowned artist Einar Forseth, best known as the author of the mosaics at Stockholm City Hall.
The building adjacent to the Church of St. Peter and St. Sigfrid, the Princess Margaret Hall, was erected in the early 1980s by the Church. However, due to increasing construction costs, it had to be sold and is now owned by the Blue Cross Federation. The building is still used by the Church occasionally, though.
I hope that you found this story interesting and perhaps even inspiring. If someone was capable of moving an entire church to another location a hundred years ago, what could be a problem for you today?
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