- Gustaf Vasa Church was built between 1901 and 1906
- With its 1,500 seats, it is considered the biggest church in Stockholm
- The church’s altarpiece dates back to the 18th century
In what is perhaps the most prominent location in the Vasastaden district in Stockholm, stands a church named after the legendary king Gustav Vasa, just like the district itself. Gustaf Vasa Church (Gustaf Vasa kyrka) is not the oldest church in the city, nor is it located in the historical heart of the Swedish capital. Though with its 1,500 seats, it is Stockholm’s largest place of worship and it was constructed during the era when large parts of Stockholm were shaped and many of the most beautiful buildings were built. Hopefully, these are enough reasons for you to visit this interesting place.
The construction of Gustaf Vasa Church began at the very beginning of the 20th century, in 1901, and took approximately five years as it was inaugurated on 10 June 1906. The decision to build this church resulted from the abundant construction works in the district mostly during the three decades following the 1880s. As Vasastaden gained more and more residents, the Adolf Fredrik Parish and its churches could not accommodate all of them. Therefore, a decision was made to divide this parish into three separate ones, resulting in the creation of Gustaf Vasa Parish (Gustaf Vasa församling) surrounding Odenplan and St. Matthew’s Parish (S:t Matteus församling) occupying the outer areas of Vasastaden bordered by Solna.
After several architectural proposals had been presented by various architects, August “Agi” Lindegren was assigned to carry out the construction project. Apart from this prominent church, the architect was responsible for several notable buildings in Stockholm as well as interior designs of many major churches in Sweden including Uppsala Cathedral (Uppsala domkyrka), St. John’s Church (S:t Johannes kyrka), Adolf Fredrik Church (Adolf Fredriks kyrka), and many others.
The land chosen for the construction stretched over the entire ‘Syrenen’ quarter located between two major avenues Odengatan and Karlbergsvägen. Previously, the property stood almost empty and was, therefore, an ideal location for a major church. Lindegren found inspiration for his design in Italy, specifically at the 18th-century Basilica of Superga (Basilica di Superga) near the city of Turin.
As if the church’s position by itself was not prominent enough, the property was elevated from the street by a granite base, which gives it even more exclusive appearance. However, the usual rules we can observe throughout history applied to this church, too, which is why the original plans had to be modified and eventually, it received a plastered façade instead of a one covered in natural stone.
Perhaps this change is also what highlighted the aesthetic importance of the 60-metre-high cupola, which forms the centre of the church. Its design with eight pairs of columns accompanied by arched windows between them is almost identical to the Italian basilica. At the same time, Lindegren stretched the roof slightly more, moved the round windows to the roof itself and topped it with a two-floor lantern with a cross on top of it.
In the lower parts of the church, you can admire more big, arched windows, that let a plenty of natural light in the interior and smaller, oval windows below the copper roof. Even though stones were not used to form major parts of the façade, some of the most important decorative elements such as portals were still made of limestone and sandstone.
The most valuable part of Gustaf Vasa Church is hidden in its interior, though. I am talking about the altarpiece created in the first half of the 18th century by one of the most renown Swedish artists in the field Burchardt Precht. The altarpiece was originally created for and used in Uppsala Cathedral until 1885 when it was moved to Stockholm’s Skansen. However, the authorities decided to purchase this unique artistic piece and display it in the new church at Vasastaden and it has been there ever since.
Among other interesting parts of the church are the four chapels located in one corner each. Every one of them serves a different purpose and consequently, their designs correspond their functions. For example, the Matthew’s chapel on northeast is used as an area for children while the Mark’s chapel on the south-east is used to serve coffee and is furnished with suitable tables and chairs.
Gustaf Vasa Church has something interesting and unique to show even under the ground. Sweden’s biggest columbarium has been developed there in several stages following the original construction completed in 1924. In current time, the capacity of the columbarium suffices to store around 35,000 urns. It is also accompanied by a chapel used for worship services and funerals.
The organ located in the church was built according to the wishes of the organist and composer Otto Olsson and has 76 voices, three manuals and pedals. Apart from the organ, the church disposes of an electronic carillon which plays five times a day, every three hours between 8 AM and 9 PM. The psalms played by the carillon vary between different periods of the year.
This story of Gustaf Vasa Church is meant to prove that it is often worth it to go and explore city parts other than the historical city centre. Stockholm’s Vasastaden district has a plenty of beautiful places to offer and, I believe, it would be a great shame to miss them so do spend some time discovering its streets whenever you get the chance.
In the coming stories, I am going to continue introducing you to the most interesting places that you can enjoy in Stockholm especially during spring and summer periods. If you like Trevl, sign up for our newsletter or join us on Facebook where we will keep you updated on the latest news. You are also more than welcome to check out our Instagram account for more travel inspiration from major European cities.
Haglund, Stig, Arensberg, Rolf, 1979. Kyrkor i Stockholm.
Fredriksson, Göran, Jermsten, Elisabet, Johansson, Ingrid, 2008. Gustaf Vasa kyrka.
Title Photo: Sokrates Petalidis [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons