At the end of our trip, we took the ferry back to Helsinki.
We ventured into the old German Church in Stockholm. It was beautiful, of course – full of white and gold and dark wood. All very elegant.
The organ in the back is of course amazing.
What you see if the altar, the kings box and the pulpit. Yes, the king had his own box seating. I guess church was the precursor to professional sporting events. Wouldn’t want the royalty to have to mix with the commoners you know.
And then there was this:
I don’t know what it is. However, it looks like something at the beginning of a PBS series – something like Sherlock Holmes or Piorot. You know, the person is there introducing the episode in a very stately manner.
Lots of gold, lots of wealth, lots of structure in this church. I’m willing to bet there aren’t many people attending on Sundays too. Wouldn’t want to many people to come in and mess things up now, would we?
The next stop on our whirlwind tour of Stockholm – the German Church.
I find it so interesting that people felt the need to have their own ethnic-style worship space. Yet, we are still pretty far from the ideal that we are all part of one body, aren’t we? It’s been said that in the US, Sunday morning is the most segregated time in the country. When will we learn?
Stockholm Cathedral, as I’ve said many times, is very pleasing to the eye. It is full of amazing art, impressive statues, and a plethora of gold.
One only has to look at the King or Queen’s seat to understand.
A nice gold pulpit.
Of course, there is a price to pay for this. It’s not paid in currency or gold. The cost is the Gospel which preaches good news to the poor, the outcast, and the outsider. In a church like this, and in any society where the ruling and governing class have sway over the church, what ends up being preached is a different gospel – one that preaches comfort to the comfortable.
The Stockholm Cathedral is full of lots of stuff. Really pretty stuff.
And yet, it also presents challenges. Challenges like – who is the church built for?
Not something most people or rulers want to think about, but we should.
The Stockholm Cathedral is an amazing place. If you’ve been following my last few posts, you will see what I mean. It’s not just that there is a ton of art work. It’s that the art work is so diverse in the sense that there is a wide variety of types of art.
There are paintings…
And there are statues…
And by that, I mean large statues. This is the famous statue of St. George and the dragon. It’s huge and in full color. St. George is probably at least six-foot tall, if you could stand him up on his own. This is an incredible piece of art. It’s also very fitting in a state-run church that at one time the state was an empire. One can almost see the argument being made that Christ will come in on a horse and with a sword and vanquish all enemies of the church and state. This is an image of Christ that Jesus himself pushed back against time and time again. His disciples at the time didn’t get it and subsequent followers haven’t gotten it right very often either. We’re always looking for a military leader to conquer and kill our foes. Christ conquers through love. The theology is in stark contrast.
Back to the cathedral. There are also small statues…
…or the continuation of our tour of the interior of the Cathedral in Stockholm.
The Cathedral has a great deal of wood, brick and stone. And don’t get me wrong, the combination of the three turned out beautiful.
Who does this cathedral serve? That’s the question that kept going through my mind as I wandered through it, in awe of its beauty.
The answer is one I don’t think we really want to mention, but I will, because that’s who I am. The cathedral serves the royalty and the powerful. It serves to prop up those in power. They built it (or rather, paid for it to be built by laborers). They heard the messages that were addressed to them. I wonder if Mark 10:17-31 was ever read from this pulpit. It’s the reading where Jesus tells the wealthy man to sell his possessions and give them to the poor and then to follow him. The pastor that would preach on that would have probably ended up in prison. The Gospel message would have to have been run through the filter of royalty. So much for conflicting the comfortable with the Word of God.
Above is the door to the stairway up to the pulpit. Again, it’s beautiful and yet, it’s beauty masks something else – division. Only the chosen few are allowed to enter through. This supports the notion that there is a division between the masses and those that speak to the masses, or rule over them.
Above is a tomb. It’s inside the cathedral. It’s a wealthy couple’s tomb. They paid for the privilege of being buried in the cathedral with the notion that they would be closer to Jesus, especially when he returns. The tomb is beautiful and yet, it’s beauty masks something else – division. It sends a message that only the wealthy and the powerful have access to God.
All throughout the cathedral, there is beauty. And yet the beauty masks something else – division. A division that humans created to separate those that are chosen by other humans and the masses who are unlucky. The chosen ones are surrounded by wealth and beauty and hear a comforting message while they see comforting images. The irony is that the Gospel message was being preached all around society, except in the cathedral. The message was that God is with the outcasts, the outsiders, those without power or value. The images were stark and the wealthy and powerful ran to the church to escape the visual imagery they saw. It was uncomfortable. Yet, it was real. So much better to manipulate the church and God and receive a supposed divine blessing on the established order of things.
Is it any wonder why people would opt out of the church when they could. Why pay the church tax when the church’s message was to comfort the comfortable all the while the conflicted suffer.
I have to say that one of the neatest things in the cathedral are these claymation-like scenes of Jesus life. I haven’t seen them anywhere else. They are simple, yet elegant. They teach adults and children. They are big enough to make sense of what’s going on, not overwhelming in size. I really like them.
First up – the last supper. It’s kind of minimalist – but you get the idea of what is going to happen momentarily.
As I mentioned in yesterday’s post – the interior of the cathedral in Stockholm is beautiful and has a great deal of symbolism – some great and some that I’m not as thrilled with, but hey, everyone has their own opinion.
Let’s start with this…
These show up in cathedrals all over Europe. They are tombstones laid right into the ground inside the cathedral. The idea at the time was that rich people would pay a nice price to be buried inside the cathedral – they believed they would be closer to the altar and hence closer to Christ and would rise before the other schmucks outside when Christ came back.
The thing that I like to point out is that nothing is permanent, except for God. Even stone wears away, as you can see in the picture. People think they are important and will be long remembered. The reality is most of us will be forgotten by humanity within three generations. Even if we carve something in stone, the name will no longer mean anything. Only God remembers who we are and frankly, God doesn’t see classes of people, especially when they are dead.
Let’s stick with the whole dead theme. Here’s a lovely tomb in the Cathedral. You know this couple paid a pretty penny to have tombs like this and inside the cathedral. Guess what though – they died too. Just like the poor people buried elsewhere.
I saw plenty of these candle globes in Stockholm churches and in various parts of Finland. I didn’t like them at first, but they really grew on me. There is a ton of symbolism in the globe with candles. Each candle could represent Christ’s light covering the earth. Each candle could represent a prayer intention of a person or for a person. The neat thing is that each candle is the same – just like we are.
Next up – some great scenes from Jesus life inside the Cathedral, or “yeah, that’s what it’s about.”