The Churches of Gotland

LÄRBRO

Choir and nave form together a homogeneous early Gothic building from the second half of the 13th century. To this belonged a tower from an older, almost totally disappeared church. In the mid-fourteenth century "Egypticus" erected a new and very remarkable tower, eight-sided, with gabled galleries and sculptured gargoyles like those on the southern chapel at St Mary in Visby, and an ornate west portal. Originally it was higher, but was so badly damaged in a gale in 1522 that the bellstorey had to be pulled down. This resulted in the 12th century "castal" being transformed into a campanile. Possibly the architect was inspired by the church of the Holy Ghost in Visby: it was also an octagon with eight gables around the spire. Even the octagon in the cathedral of Nidaros in Norway, where the shrine of St Olav was placed, has been drawn into the discussion, and it has been thought, that the beautiful tower-room in Lärbro could have been an Olav-chapel. Owing to the legend the holy king vanquished the Gotlanders in a battle at Laikarehaid, a moor in the parish, and forced them to accept Christianity. In the nave and choir there are single apostle figures on the walls, remnants of a series comprising the whole church as in Hejdeby, and as a matter of fact they are painted by the helpmate of the "Michael master", who was at work in that church. To the same painting complex belong t-he Calvary and the typically Gotlandic vault decoration in the choir. The altar piece from about 1400 is connected with the "Gammelgarn group".

Photo Hans Hemlin

Text Dr. Bengt G Söderberg


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