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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.

Comments

  1. #1 thecynic
    December 3, 2011

    While I’m certain that the fundies will declare this to be a chilling sign of the times, I disagree entirely–it is high time we atheists took some of the heat off of adherents to ancient mythology.

    Perhaps, in spite of their cold outlook and icy demeanor, the religious just might warm up to secularism after all!

    (all puns very intended)

  2. #2 Russell
    December 3, 2011

    Sell them, and turn them into B&Bs for American tourists!

  3. #3 Tiktaalik
    December 4, 2011

    This reminds my of St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague – I visited in February 2010 and it was COLD in there – even though it is a functional church. And you had to take off your hat.

  4. #4 kevin
    December 4, 2011

    I find it odd that the passing of a culture is greeted here with a certain amount of glee from people who otherwise spend a great deal of time scrabbling around in the dirt for the detritus of earlier cultures. I’m not religious, but I find a great deal of beauty and even joy in the religious expressions of the culture in which I was raised — along with a lot of other stuff that I just chuck wholesale. Perhaps the intellectual exercise of examining one’s own heritage with a critical eye is too rigorous for most.

  5. #5 Martin R
    December 5, 2011

    Swedes used to be cannibalistic hunter-gatherers. I enjoy studying the remains of their culture, but I don’t lament the passing of those lifeways. I like churches but I don’t like the Church.

    Are you seriously suggesting that you possess this rare intellectual & rigorous skill of examining your own heritage with a critical eye? Which few other people have?

  6. #6 kevin
    December 5, 2011

    Yes. Forgive the biographical info but I will explain: I was raised in a fundamentalist home and made to go to church until I was thirteen and refused. For years I espoused a militant atheism, using every opportunity to point out the hypocrisy and humanity of the institution. However the art, music and regular observances that transcend the mundane have become more appealing in middle age.

    Modern Scandy-style atheism reminds me of my youth — rebellion belongs to the teenage years. Perhaps generations of state religion has bred a deeper resentment you never grow out of. But now, I will happily go to church at Christmas with my family and sing the songs, knowing that I’m participating in a cultural observation that has roots in my culture that go back nearly a thousand years. That sense as its own value, for which what passes for secular culture has no recompense.

    Humans evolved the capacity to contemplate the sublime for utilitarian reasons that become more apparent with maturity, or creeping senility, perhaps, and using the expressions of my particular culture are as good as any other.

  7. #7 Martin R
    December 6, 2011

    Most Scandies are atheists but still go to church for weddings and Christmas services.

  8. #8 Botolf
    December 6, 2011

    I think a lot of swedish atheists view christianity, even after a millenium of it, as something un-nordic and therefor dont see this passing of christian culture as a swedish cultural loss.

  9. #9 stormen_per
    December 7, 2011

    Botolf, as a swede (and atheist), I don’t see it from that side. My view has always been that sweden is a country with christian traditions and cultural heritage. I believe that this is the view held by most. (Our older religion is history and mythology and has very little influence on our thinking.)

    I think most are just not interested in religion, and therefore do not see the cultural loss. (But to be fair, if we talk about cultural loss, it sounds as if our culture diminishes year by year. Truth is it is ever changing.)

  10. #10 EarthandIce
    December 11, 2011

    While I do not agree with the Christian principles of Swedish Lutheranism, (or any other faith that espouses it is the only way) the records of said church are a gold mine for genealogists, of which I am one.

    I hope there is a section in the PDF dealing with preserving the records for future genealogists to make use of.

    Unfortunately, said records are subject to the whims and quirks of the pastor of the church. If he is/was diligent, there are good records; if not, well…

    And said records of one such church here in the Western Hemisphere disappeared because on of the priests/pastors got tired of discussions on who was eligible for church offices depending on when they arrived in the colony. Not really big on dates such as c1649 in my family tree when I know there was a record made, but possibly destroyed for politics. Bleh!

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