Church of Santa

i-4ca30fefc698a6b6bc28ff0466636294-22669701.jpgTown life in Sweden started small in the later 8th century with Birka. The country’s capital, Stockholm, is a late town by Swedish standards, having been founded only in the mid-13th century. One of the oldest extant buildings there is the great church beside the royal castle, Storkyrkan. Here, Satan Santa was worshipped for nearly three centuries.

Most of Europe was Catholic until Reformation in the early 16th century. All Catholic churches are devoted to a patron saint, which is the reason that the urban parishes surrounding the Old Town of Stockholm are named St. Claire, St. James, St. Mary and St. Catherine. Now, who was the patron of the main church of Medieval Stockholm? St. Nicholas of Myra (c. 280-343), a.k.a. Santa Claus.

St. Nick is also the patron of children, students, sailors, fishermen, pawnbrokers, merchants, archers, the falsely accused and repentant thieves. And Russia. And Greece. A busy man.

Update 26 December: But hey, if you’re an archer or a student and St. Nick doesn’t answer your prayers, then try St. Ursula! She also caters to those demographics. Only she’s fake, says the Pope.

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  1. #1 The Worst of Perth
    December 25, 2007

    Who is the patron saint of re-gifting? Does Santa take on that role as part of his pawnbroking duties?

  2. #2 Lennart Nilsson
    December 26, 2007

    a short remark regarding the parishes the old town. None of these parishes are medieval, although three of the names are, St. Claire, St. James and St. Mary. St. Claire was a convent that was replaced by a church in the protestant 16th century, St. James was probably the place for a medieval chappel in the far south of Solna parish, whereas St. Mary was a funeral chappel. All of them, however, became parishes and the churhes were built as lutheran churhes. St. Catherine was built, and became a parish, in the 1650:s. It was named after king Charles X mother.
    Interestingly the parish and church of S:t John in the heart of Stockholm, opened in 1890, was actually named John until a couple of years ago when it was renamed S:t John. John was in fact not a saint but a local tradesman!

  3. #3 Martin R
    December 26, 2007

    Re-gifting: “the act of taking a gift that has been received and giving it to somebody else”. I’d say the patron of that activity is probably Chinese. My in-laws and their friends keep circulating the same hoary liquor bottles and chocolate boxes year after year.

    Lennart, many thanks for enlightening us! I console myself in my ignorance with observing that if one disregards the church/monastery/chapel distinction, then three of my four examples were correct. All were, after all, Catholic patron saints.

  4. #4 The Worst of Perth
    December 26, 2007

    The Pope says Ursula is fake? What’s the difference between a real fake saint a a fake one? I think praying to Ursula would have about the same result on your archery scores.

  5. #5 Martin R
    December 27, 2007

    I believe in Ursula K. LeGuin.

  6. #6 Tristram Brelstaff
    January 1, 2008

    Only she’s fake, says the Pope.

    Ah, but a good skeptic shouldn’t take his word for it!

  7. #7 Martin R
    January 1, 2008

    Very right! I have yet to see any conclusive scientific study of whether prayer to St. Ursula is efficacious or not.

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