- Högalid Church was opened in 1923
- It is one of the most notable examples of National Romanticism in Stockholm
- Its characteristic towers were designed to compete with Stockholm City Hall
In the latest episode of our weekly series Places of interest, I showed you my favourite places in the western part of Stockholm’s Södermalm, Hornstull. As I mentioned in that post, Högalid Church (Högalids kyrka) standing at the top of Högalid Hill is the most prominent attraction in the area and we should definitely discover it more thoroughly. Well, that is exactly what we are going to do in this post.
As you might expect, the reason behind considering the construction of a new church in the first place was the increasing population in the area just like in all other parts of central Stockholm. Originally, the authorities discussed a chapel that was meant to be built on top of Högalid. This was in the early 1900s and although some plans were made, none of them was ever finished or executed.
The reason was that it soon became apparent that a chapel would not be enough to accommodate all the residents of the surrounding area. Therefore, in 1907, a decision was made to build a church instead.
A handful of the most distinguished architects of the day were invited to participate in a competition for the design of the new church. It was Ivar Tengbom, known for works such as the Stockholm School of Economics (Handelshögskolan) Building on Sveavägen or the Concert Hall (Konserthuset) at Hötorget, who received the assignment. His proposals were reworked several times before the construction began in 1916, though.
The committee including Carl Westman, who designed the Court House (Stockholms rådhus) on Kungsholmen, were sceptical about the inclusion of two towers in the Tengbom’s proposal. However, it was pretty clear why Tengbom chose to build two towers instead of just one as he also admitted himself.
Högalid Church was to become one of the most notable examples of National Romanticism, which was the most popular architectural style at the time and one of very few original Swedish styles ever. The thing was, Stockholm City Hall, which was then under construction too, was another one of those and Tengbom had wanted to be the one to build it. He lost the competition to Ragnar Östberg, though, and many saw the inclusion of two towers as a revanche and as an attempt to compete against the monumental City Hall standing on the other side of Riddarfjärden.
The Swedish National Romantic movement is considered one of the big original architectural styles created in Sweden. Among the elements most characteristic of this movement are the return to older, especially medieval styles and use of ‘honest’ materials such as handmade bricks. The architects often found inspiration in monumental castles from the era of Gustav Vasa. Stockholm City Hall, Stockholm Court House, and Högalid Church are some of the most notable examples of this style in Stockholm.
The construction was finished in 1923 and to highlight the competition with the City Hall, it is interesting that Högalid Church was inaugurated on June 10, less than two weeks before the grandiose ceremony at the City Hall.
Initially, the works were meant to be completed sooner but as it is usually the case, issues were encountered along the way. The progress was halted for roughly a year in 1918 and 1920 due to labour disputes.
The church’s towers I mentioned earlier are some of the most compelling elements you can see in its exterior. However, the western portals are also particularly interesting and the overall monumentality of the brick church strikes as impressive when you walk by.
Interestingly, while the two towers have equal shape, there are several differences that distinguish them. Notice that the forms and placement of the windows are different on both towers. Both have tower clocks but while the northern tower has one oriented toward the east, one toward the north, and one toward the west, the southern tower has only one, oriented toward the south. Lastly, the northern tower is topped with a gilded cock, the southern one with a gilded cross.
Today, there is a columbarium on the northern side of the church. This had, however, not always been the case as it was built later, in 1939. Currently, it consists of a total of around 8,000 niches and its capacity is approximately 18,000 urns.
In the interior, you can find some interesting historical artefacts including a baptismal font from the turn of the sixteenth century. There are also several notable paintings, some of which date as far back as to the 1400s.
Högalid Church is a place of many faces seen by many as an important place from both architectural and historic perspective. On one hand, it was seen by some as the return to traditional forms of architecture after some bold experiments in church design across Sweden. On the other, the church was seen as Sweden’s last built as the central place in an expanding urban area.
Now you are equipped with the most interesting information about the church on the heights of Södermalm. It is, therefore, time for you to go and explore the building for yourself. Be sure to check out other interesting places in the area once you are there.
Next time on Trevl, we are going to explore another notable building built in Stockholm in the early 1900s, so make sure to come back for more stories. If you would like to stay updated on the latest news from Trevl, sign up for our newsletter below.
Bonnier, Ann Catherine, Hägg, Göran, Sjöström, Ingrid, 2008. Svenska kyrkor. En historisk reseguide.
Lindhagen, Suzanne, 2008. Högalidskyrkan.
Haglund, Stig, 1979. Kyrkor i Stockholm.