Church of the Day – St. Erik’s, Stockholm, Sweden

St. Erik’s is the Catholic cathedral in Stockholm. In the 1840s to 1850s Sweden’s Catholic Queen Josefina from Bavaria helped begin liberalizing the rules for Catholics in Sweden. These new rules allowed immigrant Catholics (like her) to practice their faith although it was still illegal for Swedes to be Catholic. Police were even stationed outside the Catholic church to enforce the bans. St. Erik’s church was consecrated in 1892 and finally recognized as a cathedral in 1953 when a papal ruling allowed the the Catholic Church in Sweden to be recognized as a diocese. The church was expanded dramatically in size decades later.

The architectural motif at the top of St. Erik’s Cathedral almost looks like a gingerbread topping.

St Erik’s was founded in the 1890s. For 140 years St. Erik’s has had a very clear mission to meet the needs of Stockholm’s Catholic immigrant population. In the early days they were Catholic immigrants from Ireland, Italy, and Spain. Today they include immigrants from Eastern Europe and Central America. The church offers seven Masses on Sunday in five different languages: Italian, Spanish, Polish, Croatian and Swedish.

Narrow double tone spires hold up an interesting copper crown and St. Erik’s martyr’s sword as a cross.

This is from the old 1890s sanctuary looking toward the new 1970s sanctuary. The text on the triumphal arch says, “Let us approach God’s throne.” The straight-up traditional colorful Catholic interior design is unmolested by the Reformation. The side pulpit is not imperialistic like the one in Uppsala Cathedral, but made of wood with simple gray and gold paint. It was maintained during the expansion but is not used for sermons because this is now a fully Catholic church. The altars are the Virgin Mary with the Child Jesus and the Holy Heart of Jesus.

Here’s a view toward the original organ, which continues as the main organ for the church.

Built in 1893, with a Spanish trumpet added in 1983!

Much of the funding for the new part of the church came from East German donors, showing continuation of the ties to Bavaria. The combined space now allows seating for more than 600 parishioners and it does fill during high holy days and jubilees. The definitely modern ceiling is made of brass acoustic tiles. The original stained-glass windows were moved to this section. The choir organ and modern baptismal font are visible. This font is used for adult baptisms, with most others baptized in the 1893 baptismal font and chapel in the crypt. Even though the font is simple concrete with a brass cover, it has four padlocks to prevent it from “walking away.”

St. Erik’s has an “Our Lady of Guadalupe” shrine, something we saw at the basilica in Mexico City and all across Central America but were surprised to find in Sweden. (Note that Our Lady of Guadalupe is the Virgin Mary. The name comes from the town of Guadalupe near Mexico City, where five visions of her were seen.) Beyond the painting is a separate Guadalupe chapel with an altar and an inscription: “St. Mary of Guadalupe, bless your children from Mexico and South America who live in Sweden.” Stockholm has nearly 10,000 Central American immigrants, 70,000 South Americans, plus additional Hispanic North Americans, often with strong religious ties.

The eight-pointed stars on Our Lady of Guadalupe’s robe represent hope.

The Catholic Swedes have St. Erik. This one says, “Saint Erik. Thank you.”

Note the sword, as in the new copper spire.

St. Erik side chapel: The Swedish is “Holy Erik, pray for us.” Saint Erik is often portrayed with a youthful appearance. He was only 35 to 40 years old when he was assassinated by the Danish King Magnus II at the site that would become Uppsala Cathedral. In the “only the good die young” vein, legend says he was beloved by all, but clearly not so, at least by one rival who wanted to be his successor…and succeeded.

The early Renaissance Altomünster altar in a side chapel was a 1953 gift from the Birgittine monastery in Bavaria. Saint Michael appears at the top under the crucifix, asking, “Who is like God?” Relics from Saint Bridget/Birgitta (patron saint of Sweden) and her daughter Saint Catherine of Vadstena are among the items at the altar.

The original stained glass from 1892 includes panels for St. Birgitta, Christ handing keys to the kingdom of heaven to St. Peter, the Crucifixion and St. Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus. Paul and Peter are patron saints of the church, along with Erik as primary patron saint.

Saul on the road to Damascus, meeting the risen lord and becoming Paul, an important Christian missionary

The wooden Pietà from 1715 is quite small but impactful. The inscription is Lamentations 1:12. “Is it nothing to you, all you that pass by? Behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow, which is done unto me.”

Pietà comes from the Latin word for pity.

It’s not clear what the look is on the soldier’s face in this First Station of the Cross. Perhaps he doesn’t agree with the decision for crucifixion, yet he can’t say anything. The beginning of the Catholic prayer for the first station is, “Jesus, you stand all alone before Pilate. Nobody speaks up for you. Nobody helps defend you. You devoted your entire life to helping others, listening to the smallest ones, caring for those who were ignored by others. They don’t seem to remember that as they prepare to put you to death.”

First Station of the Cross, from the 1890s

Visited on September 7, 2021

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1 Response to Church of the Day – St. Erik’s, Stockholm, Sweden

  1. Pingback: Stockholm, the Venice of the North | Finger Lakes to Lavender Fields

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