following the graves, part two

Uppsala is identified as a political and religious centre during long periods in Swedish history. When the city is visited today, the cathedral is the crucial point of the sightseeing. In there, secular and ecclesiastical powers met. It's erection determined the erection of the city. It is a place of the final rest of Swedish kings, statesmen and saints.

For the architectural nerds

In the Middle Ages the centre of community was located a bit north from present Uppsala, in Gamla Uppsala. Before christianization of Sweden there was the source of pagan cult. To make a change of the dominant faith with an impact, the church was erected in Gamla Uppsala. It served its purpose until the second half of the 13th century. Then it was considered to be to narrow for the growing community, it was damaged by fire and it was old-fashioned in the architectural terms. The plan was to move the religious centre to Östra Aros. It was place of growing craftsmen society, visited by vast number of people during the winter markets. However, before the conveyance, two persons had to agree on that. First it was a pope, whose consent was needed to secure the continuation of liturgy, given in 1258. Then the owner of the country, king Valdemar, 1270 announced in Söderköping that the conveyance can take place.

The construction was undertaken in decades, even in centuries, depending on the angle of counting. The cathedral was rebuilt, parts were added, changed, decorations were placed and moves, finally there came stylistic renovations. To focus on the most important dates and events, let's mention the years 1273, when the official conveyance of Saint Eric's relics were moved from Gamla Uppsala to the cathedral. Saint Eric is one of the most important patrons of Sweden and the most important one when it comes to the royal family. This ceremony sets also a date, since when we can call Uppsala by its name. The same year is also a moment for finishing chapels known today as Jagiellonian and Silver. Then the work proceeded in the choirs and transept, the most challenging parts, finished around 1340. The ceremonial inauguration took place in 1435, on the third day of Whitsun.

the plan of the cathedral

the plan of the cathedral

If there was one person, being the driving force of the construction, it would be archdeacon Folke Ängel. He chose a model of style to follow – the current hot stuff, French Gothic. The cathedral was built as typical basilica, symmetrical, with the main nave and two aisles. The main nave is higher than the others and has its own lightning, coming though windows. Aisles are joined with row of chapels. This whole composition is so symmetrical, that one can have an impression of seeing five naves. Then, the main nave is connected with chancel, three sided. The chancel itself is enclosed with ambulatory, to which five chapels were attached in order to preserve the symmetry. All five of them are spacious, but the most central one is the biggest and the most important. Its width is just slightly shorter than the main nave's.

The main nave is the dominant part of the church. It's 10 meters wide, which is considerably narrow, but it's three times higher than that. The aisles are lower and narrower than the main one, but the symmetry solution was copied – side aisles are three times higher than wider. The transept is similar in width and height to the main nave. The transept has two doors, facing the south and the north. When they are opened during the summer it creates a magnificent impression, with the sunlight and the shadows, playing the in transept, enriching the interior. With the door closed the transept is uniform and homogeneous.

All the elements seems to be independent and depended on each other at the same time. Their separation makes the proportions strongly emphasized. The main nave is surrounded with pillars, reaching from the bottom to considerable height. The ribs connecting the pillars reach out vertically and suddenly they bend and then meet each other, which is their characteristic future. This stresses the feeling of growing of the building. The walls between pillars seem to be naked, but they are enriched with bossage.

For the interior design lovers

I always take a walk around the church. With Uppsala cathedral I strongly recommend doing the same. This way no one misses the astonishing portals – the northern and the southern ones, which are part of the transept, and the western one, through which visitors enter the building. My favourite is the first one. It was made by a Parisian stone mason Estienne de Bonneuil in the end of the 13th century. He is also responsible for the western portals, so those two pieces are the oldest part of the cathedral. Bonneuil made also one of the pillars in the chancel. Also those pieces of art have a definitive French influence.

In the centre of the northern portals stands a figure of Saint Olov. The portal is formed by series of distinctive columns and bows. There are not the same, nevertheless there were grouped and formed with a rhythm. All were created with the same tapering and elegant profile. On the other side, the southern portal is guarded by Saint Lars. Above him are presented the six days of creation. In the inner bow are visible 12 prophets from the Old Testament, in the outer one – 12 apostles. In the western portals, the reliefs and the sculpture of Saint Eric were created in the 15th century. Unfortunately only the reliefs survived. Now present Saint Eric's figure was made from the 19th century.

When it comes to the interior design, there are many magnificent pieces of art to look at. One of them plays the crucial symbolic role. The present case with Saint Eric's relics is located in the cathedral since 1579 (the previous one was recasted in order to pay Sweden's debt after the first northern war). Two craftsmen participated in its creation, Hans Rosenfelt and Gillis Coyet, but the work was led by Willem Boy. He was also responsible for a drawing of the iron grating with roses and Saint Eric's monogram (SER = Sanctus Ericus Rex). This case is the third one for Saint Eric's relics. The very first one was made in the 12th century, then replaced in the first decade of the 15th century. The case until today locks Saint Eric's relics. In the same chapel relics of Saint Birgitta were laid.

Uppsala cathedral underwent couple of fires and renovations afterwards. Major changes happened after the fire from 1702. Longer reparations works were required, led by Nicodemus Tessin the Younger. He, along with Burchard Precht, were responsible for the pulpit from 1710, which is still present. Tessin left a drawing of the altar, which later on was transferred into life by Burchard Precht's son, Gustaf, in 1731. On the picture you can check the comparison between this baroque enormous altar and the present one from the 19th century. In Precht's altar crucified Jesus is flanked by Mary and John. Tessin's work was concluded by Carl Hårleman, who instead of rebuilding burned towers thought of two simple, but monumental hoods. They were ready in 1747, present until today. It was said that Tessin and Hårleman were responsible for leaving the cathedral outer parts in antigothic style. In the 19th century this impression was outrageous and demanded to be changed. In 1873 Helgo Zettervall came on stage. He gave back Lund's cathedral the romaneqsue look, now he wanted to give Uppsala's cathedral back its gothiqueness. The work under his command was conducted between 1886 and 1893.

For the royal propaganda seekers

Uppsala cathedral was supposed to serve the royal family for performing the coronations and become the final resting place of the kings and queens. Gustav Vasa was the first one to arrange his coronation here, in 1528. His and his wives burial tomb was designed by Willem Boy (who did almost everything in Sweden in the second half of the 16th century). It was made between 1562 and 1583. On Gustav's right is presented Katarina av Sachsen-Lauenburg, on his left – Maragreta Leijonhuvfud. Both of them were crowned as queens, both of them gave birth to future kings of Sweden. For his burial room Gustav chose the finest chapel, the one directly behind the chancel (remember the biggest and the most important one?). Before his burial, the chapel was devoted to Saint Mary.

The final form of the chapel's arrangements were made by Erik XIV, Gustav's oldest son. He wanted the European example to be followed: the underground vault for the chest and a monument above it, a burial tomb in classical style. It gave a space for numerous symbols and pictures, engraved on the tomb by Willem Boy. Erik himself was coroneted in Uppsala as well, although he was not buried there. His follower on the throne, brother Johan III fulfilled both of those ceremonies, his wife, Katarina Jagiellonica as well. Her tomb was also made by Willem Boy. It is placed in the Jagiellonian chapel, in front of her husband's, although his body was put next to Gustav in Vasa chapel.

No other king was buried in Uppsala. It is hard to explain why the city hasn't become the royal burial church. Probably it was Axel Oxenstierna's decision to bury Gustav II Adolf in Riddarholmskyrkan in Stockholm. Nevertheless, Uppsala cathedral remained a place for royal coronations. Instead of kings and queens, many statesmen continued to choose the cathedral as their final resting place. One can find many sophisticated tombs, from which I'll mention Carl Linnaues, the great Swedish botanist, and Magnus Stenbock, the hero of the great northern war, who hold off the Danes from Helsingborg and Skåne in 1710.

No texts or pictures can describe the cathedral properly. I repeat here what I was already telling and saying – if you are around, maybe in Stockholm, it's obligatory to go to Uppsala, if only to see the cathedral.

My must see places in Uppsala!