Sweden’s goodbye to religious faith and cult continues apace, and so does the relocation of the population from the countryside to the cities. Here’s a sign of the times. The National Heritage Board has recently re-issued its 1998 how-to guide for (rural) congregations who wish to quit heating their churches (available as a free PDF).
Sweden’s rural churches, many of which were built in the 12th, 13th and 14th centuries, have only been heated for the past century or so. It’s comfier for the congregants and it reduces humidity, thus improving preservation conditions for some materials. But from other preservation perspectives it’s not good at all. Looking at church organs, for instance, older ones were built for a cold and damp environment while modern ones want a warm and dry one.
Anyway, the reason that the heat is getting turned off in more and more churches isn’t preservation concerns. It’s the shrinking congregations and the price of electricity. Fewer and fewer people live in the country, and their religious ratio is dropping too.
The book’s chapters cover preservation aspects of wooden furnishings and paintwork, murals and stucco, painted wooden sculpture and canvas, textiles, books, metalwork and organs. It closes with a check list for annual inspections of unheated churches.
Antell, O. & Karlström, J. 1998. Att sluta värma en kyrka. National Heritage Board. ISBN 91-7209-143-6. 32 pp.