- St. Stephen’s Church was completed in 1904
- Its low, four-sided tower with a clock from 1743 belongs to its most characteristic elements
- The church is located in the southern part of the Vanadislunden park
- The simple design is a consequence of the socioeconomic circumstances in the area in the early 1900s
Churches in Stockholm are a special category of historic sites all by themselves. You can literally spend days exploring them. Most importantly though, I am quite confident to say that you can do that without ever getting bored. The variety of styles, shapes, construction materials and stories of these places is so great that your biggest issue might be remembering to which church a particular story belongs.
Many of the well-known churches all around Stockholm come from the early 20th century. Among these, you would find Sofia Church in Södermalm, Oscar’s Church in Östermalm, Gustaf Vasa Church in Vasastaden, or the St. Stephen’s Church located in the same city part, which is also the one we look at in this post.
Around the time when the church was built, the area in the northeastern part of the Vasastaden district, occupied by the Vanadislunden park, became known as Siberia (Sibirien) because of its remote location. As one of the fast-growing city parts, Siberia needed its own place of worship since existing churches were relatively far and their capacity could not accommodate the increasing population.
Hence, in 1900, a small wooden chapel was built on the corner of Frejgatan and Tulegatan in the southeastern part of today’s park. The chapel was designed as a temporary solution, which was obvious from its simple design. If you are familiar with stories of some other historical buildings in Stockholm, it may come as a surprise to you that this time, the solution really was temporary and already the next year plans for a permanent church were on the table.
These were created by architect Carl Möller, the author of St. John’s Church (Sankt Johannes kyrka) and Gustav Adolf’s Church (Gustav Adolfskyrkan) to name a few. Things kept moving swiftly leading to the inauguration of the new St. Stephen’s Church on the Ascension Day in 1904.
The wooden chapel was no longer needed and, therefore, it was dismantled and moved to another location. Today, it is known as St. Sigfrid’s Chapel (S:t Sigfrids kapell) and can be found in Aspudden in the southern suburban part of Stockholm. The unusual church with the light façade made of limestone stands proudly in the southern part of Vanadislunden instead.
Because of the nature of the material used, the façade was significantly lighter at the time when the church was completed than it is today. However, it still remains in great contrast with more common red-brick and plastered facades of most churches in Stockholm. Interestingly, the water reservoir standing in the same park a few dozen metres from St. Stephen’s Church featured a similar stone façade in the early 1900s. It was only later, during the 1914 reconstruction, that the façade changed its face and received its modern-day red-brick look.
What makes the church perhaps stand out the most is its four-sided low tower asymmetrically placed on the southwestern side of the building. It is topped with a copper cap with a cross and it features a tower clock on every one of its four sides. The oldest one of these clocks is much older than the church itself as it had been made in 1743 and moved to the location from St. John’s Church in 1903.
However, the tower is not the only interesting part visible from the outside. What you might not expect when you see the church for the first time is that the main entrance is on the western side. You will get to it by the unusual granite staircase but hopefully not before you notice the large windows with pointed arches on all sides of the building. Also notice that the roof covering the longhouse, as well as the aisle, is covered with slate while the remaining parts of the church have a roof made of copper.
The first big reconstruction of the new place of worship at Vanadislunden took place already between 1925 and 1926. Though it was the next one, in the late 1950s, that had a greater impact on the present-day appearance of the church. Significant parts of the furnishing come from this period and while the exterior has been preserved to this day almost unchanged, that cannot be said about the interior.
The wooden floors and ceiling decorations are among the original elements and, together with additional stone décor, likely the most notable decorations you can see inside the church. As this fact suggests, it was not only the wooden chapel whose design was rather simple. The décor of the St. Stephen’s Church, too, is rather sparse, which is a result of the socioeconomic circumstances prevalent in the area during the era when it was erected.
Overall, the interior is dominated by light colours and natural materials such as wood and stone, which are in contrast with the blue textiles used in most parts of the interior. An interesting point to mention about the furnishing is that the St. Stephen’s Church originally lacked the central aisle between the benches just like other churches designed by architect Möller.
Consequent renovations have been sensitive and so, the church has preserved its simplistic style. The triptych with 10 paintings by the artist Einar Forseth introduced in 1926 is one of the noteworthy additions that have found their place in the building during the renovations.
Now you are equipped with the most interesting knowledge for your next visit of Vanadislunden which I have also covered in an earlier post. The St. Stephen’s Church located there shows us yet another style of a church and considering the design of the St. John’s Church, it also acts as a proof of architect Möller’s creativity.
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Stockholms stift, 2008. Stefanskyrkan. [svenskakyrkan.se].