The Churches of Gotland


The church can give us a standard lesson in the history of Gotlandic church building. The tower is absurdly small in relation to the building as a whole. That is so because it was left standing when the little church to which it belonged was pulled down in order to be replaced by a new building. It is a profile that often recurs in Gotlandic churches and it can always be interpreted in the same way. The chancel was built by the architect and stone mason Lafrans Botvidarson from Eskelhem (see Hellvi), recognizable on his graceful, embroidery-like ornaments on the portal capitals. When at the end of the 13th century a new nave was erected one made use of the finely cut facade stones from the demolished 12th century church, many of them showing reliefs and pieces of an arcade frieze. Thanks to such decorative building material preserved in Gothic buildings we can get a very good conception of the other wise vanished, richly ornamented churches of the 1 2th century. The figure frieze in the portal of the nave is ranked among the best Gothic stone sculpture in Gotland-a miniature reflection from the cathedrals of Ile de France. Against the south wall of the tower an inclusorium as in Atlingbo was built in the 14th century. Note in the wall the picture-stone from the 5th century! The pulpit and the pews show an homogeneous "Carolinian" baroque style. Above the chancel arch is a mural painting from about 1280 showing Christ enthoroned, flanked by the Virgin, John the Baptist, St Bartholomew, St Olav (the patron of Gotland) and (probably) two donators. In the Middle Ages the church owned a relic of the Holy cross and was frequently visited by pilgrims. Its renown as a source of divine help has lasted right down to our own times.

Photo Hans Hemlin

Text Dr. Bengt G Söderberg


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List of the churches in alphabetical order

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