In England and other countries, churches have long been deconsecrated and used as shops and for housing. In Sweden, this has previously only happened to nonconformist chapels – quite frequently, actually. But now, the first Church of Sweden church with a churchyard has been sold.

֖rja church near Landskrona in Scania is a neo-Gothic yellow brick structure built in 1868 after its Medieval predecessor on the site was torn down. It was closed in 2003 due to insufficient interest from congregants, and in 2005 it was deconsecrated. But unlike the nearby 1909 new church of Maglarp, ֖rja isn’t being torn down, possibly because of its greater age and venerability. It has been sold for 1 krona to a family who intends to make it their home.


  1. #1 Bert Chadick
    April 28, 2012

    Big drafty stone church as a home in Sweden?! Sounds insane.

  2. #2 Martin R
    April 28, 2012

    I wonder if the guy will put in an extra floor and partition the two floors up into smaller rooms. A church is after all essentially one big barn.

  3. #3 Thomas Ivarsson
    April 28, 2012

    The style is called Eslöv-Gothic here in Scania and that stands for ugly or bad taste. There are plenty of them in Scania like the church of Limhamn, the Church of Vintrie and also the church of Uppåkra. What will the new owners do with the grave yard?

  4. #4 Martin R
    April 28, 2012

    They are not allowed to buy the graveyard, just the right to walk across it to their house.

  5. #5 Thomas Ivarsson
    April 28, 2012

    This village has also been part of a large archeological excavation the last years because of the establishment of a big transport /logistics center. It is a fiftythousand square meter iron age establishmentbut publish results of the excavation is a little limited this far.


  6. #6 Birger Johansson
    April 28, 2012

    If you read the urban gothic of Kim Harrison you know there are advantages to living in an old church http://www.amazon.com/Dead-Witch-Walking-Hollows-Book/dp/0061567191/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1335662032&sr=8-2 If the thing you summon breach the pentagram, you can retreat into the parts of the ex-church that still repel supernatural intruders.
    PS. Please tell me the church torn down 150 years ago was not one of those very rare wooden churches.
    — — — — — — — —
    (OT) The Chinese are building an exact copy of Hallstadt, more famous for naming a prehistoric culture. But then Hallstadt is prettier than Örja.

  7. #7 Roland
    April 28, 2012

    Reminds me of Arlo Guthrie’s song: Alice’s Restaurant Massacree. They lived upstairs and put the garbage where the pews used to be, so they didn’t have to take it out for a long time.

  8. #8 Martin R
    April 29, 2012

    Örja was stone. Wood is for the poor after 1150.

  9. #9 Birger Johansson
    April 30, 2012

    (OT) We are all foreigners! “Ancient Swedish farmer came from the Mediterranean” http://www.nature.com/news/ancient-swedish-farmer-came-from-the-mediterranean-1.10541 (White Power blokes’ heads explode)
    Actually it makes sense that farmers settled in a “mosaic” pattern, favouring the spots best for agriculture and leaving the rest for the hunter-gatherers. Thus we get a slow merging of the two populations.

  10. #10 Phillip Helbig
    April 30, 2012

    Most churches in Scania are white and don’t have the buttresses. Is there any relation to this church being sold and the fact that it is atypical?

    Until relatively recently, there was a state church in Sweden. What was the reason for the change and why did it happen when it did? (Note for non-European readers: the presence of a state church and the degree of religiosity of the population are to first order not correlated; to second order, there is probably a negative correlation.)

  11. #11 Martin R
    April 30, 2012

    It’s not so much atypical as it is young. I believe the Swedish Church places a higher value on well-preserved Medieval edifices.

    As I understand it, the separation between church and state in Sweden came about because a) people are extremely secularised here, b) the strongest expressions of religiosity and the greatest growth is seen in non-Swedish Church religious groups such as Sunni Islam.

  12. #12 Botolf
    April 30, 2012

    I dont think the Swedish public would be ready to accept the selling of churches with medieval origins to private individuals? This kind of church on the other hand, it seems nobody cares for.

    It must be very impractical to live in a church protected by the Swedish Cultural heritage law.

  13. #13 Thomas Ivarsson
    April 30, 2012

    In the Scania provins in Sweden a lot of nice but small 12 and 13 century churches were teared down in the 19th century and replaced with this rubbish. There are still many early medieval churches left in Scania but too many disapperad 100-150 years ago.

  14. #14 Phillip Helbig
    April 30, 2012

    It’s not so much atypical as it is young. I believe the Swedish Church places a higher value on well-preserved Medieval edifices.

    OK. I am not religious at all, but I think it is good to preserve historical buildings etc. (To take an extreme example, Nazi concentration camps are historical monuments, and most people think they should be preserved as such, which shows that one can be in favour of preserving something even if one disagrees with the purpose it was built for.) A few years ago, some self-styled Norwegian pagans burned down some historical wooden churches; I believe the ashes were even on the cover of a death-metal album. (For the record, I like good hard-rock and even heavy-metal music, but could never get the point of doom-, stoner-, death-, black-metal etc.)

    As I understand it, the separation between church and state in Sweden came about because a) people are extremely secularised here, b) the strongest expressions of religiosity and the greatest growth is seen in non-Swedish Church religious groups such as Sunni Islam.

    The secularization has been around for a long time, thus my question about why it happened relatively late. Maybe your second point is the main one: if the state in any way favours Christian religion, other religions could claim the same status, so apparently the sensible decision was made for the state to favour no religion at all. This has been the case in France for a long time, where the people are somewhat more religious than in Sweden. However, even the Catholic church (almost all Christians in France are Catholic) in France now thinks that this is a good idea. Germany is about as secularized as Sweden, but there is still some support for the two(!) state churches (Lutheran and Catholic). The fact that there are two is perhaps one reason that the situation has remained relatively harmless. Still, I think it is too much and think the state should not be involved in religion at all, as a matter of principle, but of course the idea that more extreme religions (at least in the sense of how most people in the corresponding countries practice them today) could claim equal treatment is an additional reason to get rid of state churches altogether. I was quite surprised when just a few months ago the leader of the SPD (major German left-wing party) in Germany publicly criticized an initiative within his party in favour of complete separation of church and state, effectively quashing it.

    Of course, both theory and practice are important. Turkey and the US have official separation of church and state, but in practice religion plays a huge role in public life in both countries. In Germany, there are still state churches, but politics is essentially secular. Although she married her second husband before she became Chancellor, Angela Merkel and her then boyfriend lived together for several years while Merkel was a federal minister. The current president, Joachim Gauck, is still married but has lived apart from his wife for a long time. His girlfriend moved into the presidential palace with him. Francois Hollande in France also said that he and his girlfriend (who have 7 children from previous partners) have no plans to marry even if he become President.

  15. #15 Martin R
    April 30, 2012

    To Anglophone readers: “Early Medieval” means AD 1100-1250 in Sweden.

  16. #16 Martin R
    April 30, 2012

    Phil Zuckerman argues that the long-lived Scandinavian low-emotion Protestant state churches have been major factors in making these nations the most secular ones on Earth.

  17. #17 Thomas Ivarsson
    April 30, 2012

    My late mother and my father claims that the protestant church was very present in the mindset of Swedes until 1940-1950. On Good Friday it was mandatory to sit down and say nothing during the whole day. Remember Ingemar Bergmans movies! What would his movies be without the fear of the church?

  18. #18 Thomas Ivarsson
    April 30, 2012

    A funny story is that the new church of Maglarp, that Martin mentions, was smashed down a few years ago, and the old church came back as “the church of Maglarp” http://sv.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maglarps_kyrka

  19. #19 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    May 1, 2012

    I think it is funny to note that the marginal value of swedish churches are now virtually zero.

    @ Bert Chadick: It is also claimed to be near a highway and so noisy. What there the family thinking? “It’s a fixer-upper”?

  20. #20 Birger Johansson
    May 2, 2012

    Empty church. Hmm… cinema? Theater? Hall for computer servers of big IT companies?
    The huge indoor area could be used to pre-grow potatoes in early spring (cannabis plants hidden behind the potatoes, of course*).
    *It would follow the shamanistic tradition of ingesting psychoactive substances in religious context, so we are just keeping traditions alive.

  21. #21 Thomas Ivarsson
    May 5, 2012

    I have just seen parts of show, The Restoration Man( George Clarke) where a family restore a medieval church to their own house. The cementary still left around the house. Maybe a new trend here in Sweden as well 😉

  22. #22 JustaTech
    May 7, 2012

    I knew a family in the US who lived in a old church. They said that the odd part wasn’t living in an old church, but rather that it was also the funeral parlor they ran.

    (It’s actually a brilliant use of an old church, since the space arrangement is the same. Just super creepy!)

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