Naked dead

While November 1 is All Saints Day, here in Sweden the first Saturday in November is the holiday for it. It’s a day for remembering people who are no longer with us; a day to visit graveyards and cemeteries and light a candle. As the daylight vanishes and night arrives, lots of little flickers of life dot gravestones. Everything looks lovely.

Of course, we weren’t convinced there’d be anything to see given the weather. Almost continuous rain prompted flood warnings and, as we drove to the church in Vagnhärad, fields full of water greeted us either side of the roads. You quickly realise why the roads are higher than the surrounding land and there are deep gullies either side of it.

We visited three churches, each one with friendly people greeting us, offering coffee and homemade biscuits, candles and warm welcomes. It was lovely.

We even managed to get inside Trosa landskyrka (country church), which is generally only open in the summer.

We shared a coffee with two women who cheerfully told us a few things about the church. Most amazing are the frescoes that laid hidden beneath whitewash for years before being rediscovered.

I have since learned that this church was, in the Middle Ages, the main Trosa church. The town of Trosa was close by but, with the town becoming known for its fishing, the townspeople moved closer to the sea and, eventually, this area reverted to farmland.

The original, wooden church burned down and was replaced by a stone church. The stone church managed to survive up until 1773 when someone looking for treasure shot an arrow into the roof and set the entire top on fire*.

The church was fixed up with the help of a wealthy landowner called Count Bielke. He owned Tureholm at the time. The estate must have been bloody big though because the church is quite a distance from the main house. I guess the church must have promised Bielke a place in heaven if he fixed the roof.

Anyway, historical indulgences aside, the present day church was there by the 1800’s, when the whitewash was applied. Restoration of the frescoes is ongoing, according to the woman with the biscuits.

Personally, I really liked the depiction of heaven and hell bound souls on the triptych behind the altar.

Unusually, both sets of souls are naked. It’s generally just the sinners. Lauren reckons the ones going to heaven have yet to get their divine robes. She went on to postulate whether there’s some sort of reverse coat check station just outside St Peter’s gates where robes are handed out. She was concerned for the souls who miss out, assuming they’d have to go to hell instead.

Moving on from the naked dead, we paid our respects to our own recently departed before heading into Trosa. After wandering in the drizzly rain, we visited our own church, stopping outside to admire the lights in the memorial garden and on the big boulder. It all looked lovely.

We were far from being the only people out and about. It’s a big thing in Sweden, All Saints Day. People are warm and friendly. It’s a very family time holiday.

Also delightful, was the lounge at the Stadshotell where we sat with drinks for bit, before heading home.

By the way, Tureholm is the place that Lauren wants to buy and restore. It’s not far from our house but needs quite a lot of work. It’s going begging at one Swedish crown. However, the costs of repairs will be really high so she reckons she’ll organise a bunch of her friends to form some sort of syndicate.

* I don’t understand this but it’s how Google Translate interprets the Swedish information.

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