Monday, October 08, 2007
Why It's So Cool to Live in Linköping - Part 1: Domkyrka
Some of you have figured it out. “Linköpinglivin’” may be a catchy title, but we all know this blog is about life in Sweden and sometimes even expands throughout Europe. In an effort to be true to the title, and to pass on some love and credit where love and credit are due, this week commences a five-part occasional series on what makes Linköping a special place to live. No better place to start than the undeniable heart of the city’s history and culture, Linköping’s Domkyrka (Cathedral).
To American eyes, the Domkyrkan is a quintessential example of historical Europe, a stunning architectural and historical edifice that simply defies what we would have ever thought could be built in the 1200s. To Swedish eyes, the Domkrykan may very well be taken for granted as one more historical icon in a part of the world with many historical icons. My hope is that the Domkrykan captures the imagination and wonder of Europe for the American and that the Swede takes a moment to re-consider (and even re-visit with fresh eyes?) this remarkable achievement.
From far away, off in the distance, as someone is approaching Linköping, the Domkrykan marks the spot, the heart of Linköping’s otherwise humble historical district. As one stands at the entrance and looks up, the surprise that this cathedral is in a town like Linköping reveals a naïve historical perspective, that only the biggest towns have the biggest toys. Linköping, being on a central road of both north-south and east-west commerce before and after Sweden’s dynastic era in the Middle Ages, was a natural location for pilgrims seeking a place to pay homage. The first limestones were laid in 1230 (1230!), and the initial church finally was completed in the mid 1500s. Throughout Europe, the townspeople who laid cathedrals’ foundations knew they would never see the completion in their lifetime, nor would the six generations after them! Apparently instant gratification is a recent concept…
Over that period of time of building, a lot changed in Europe. What was Romanesque architecture (rounded arches, large supports inside) became Gothic (pointed arches, outer buttress support) with a small element of Early English (decorative), as well. What was Catholic became Protestant and has ended up to resemble the Anglican Church of England more than anything else (the Swedish State Church, Svenskyrkan, is officially Lutheran).
The sense of awe and wonder that Americans seek when visiting Europe is not lost on the Domkyrkan. The second largest cathedral in Sweden (Uppsala – north of Stockholm), the Domkyrkan can be enjoyed any time of day, open and free to the public, and is still used for daily services of Vespers, occasional Mass and Sunday services in the evenings as well as visiting instrumental and choir concerts. As for attendance, only 5% of Swedes attend church regularly, but predictably the Christmas service is the high point of the calendar for the Domkrykan. Personally, the Santa Lucia concert celebrating light in the middle of darkness on December 13th was simply the most magical thing I witnessed my first year in not just Sweden, but all of Europe.
Whether visiting for spiritual, historical or cultural reasons, whether sharing the faith of the people who constructed it or simply curious, the Domkyrkan is one of many highlights throughout Linköping that will be covered in the coming weeks and months on Linköpinlivin’.
Finally, this month marks the seventh anniversary of my Grandmother Dorothy’s passing in October of 2000. Prior to coming to Sweden, I read Grandma’s trip diary from her Scandinavian tour back in 1982:
“After leaving Stockholm we went to Copenhagen stopping in Linköping to hear a concert in the cathedral there.”
If only Grandma had known that 24 years later, her then 9-year old grandson would be living and working in that city of the cathedral, doing his own trip journaling about the Domkyrkan. She would be delighted with this experience, as am I. Here’s to Grandma, the Domkyrkan and Linköping.
1. Who would ever think that something this colossal would be found in quaint Linköping?
2. Inside the Domkrykan, the nave.
3. Pointed arches and buttresses (sometimes “flying”) reveal the Gothic architecture of the High Middle Ages (1000 – 1500).
4. The photographer’s favorite angle of Linköping’s Domkyrka.
5. A picture taken from Linköping University captures the stature of the Domkyrkan in comparison to the rest of Linköping.