In 1954, Vällingby, the first major post-war suburb of Stockholm, was opened to great fanfare. Designed to take some of the pressure for more housing off of Stockholm. this was one of a number of suburbs laid out around the city on formerly rural land. Sven Markelius, then Stockholms Director of City Planning, looked both at American models (Radburn, New Jersey) and the British “New Towns,” in his design for Vallingby. The new suburb, intended for some 25,000 inhabitants, was linked to the city by a stop on the newly-created Stockholm Metro line, and it was also designed to include both a cultural center and and to accommodate work for some 10,000 workers. (Even in Sweden, this was when only one parent worked!).
St. Tomas church, Vallingby was designed by young architect, Peter Celsing (1920-74) and dedicated in 1963. Before opening his own architectural practice, Celsing had been an assistant to the well-known architect Sigurd Lewerentz, an architect who had had great success early in his career, designing the Stockholm South Woodland Cemetery with Gunnar Asplund. He then left architecture for some time, and returned to build a number of very modern churches which revived his career. Celsing had been very involved in the design competition for the firm’s winning 1956 entry for St. Mark’s church in Björkhaven, a suburb of Stockholm. Celsing learned much from Lewerentz about the powerful materiality of rough brick. St. Tomas Chuch presents itself as a massive brick wall with bell tower on the street side, but the building is built around a courtyard, and the interior church space is filled with light from the court.
Anna-Lisa Odelqvist Kruse was commissioned to design a red chasuble for this starkly modern inward-turning church, and delivered it in 1966. She did not choose a silk damask for this church, but rather a fine flat wool in a graded red color spectrum, a material which seems more compatible with the rough brick. The silk embroidery on the back of the robe marks out a cross in gold and silver threads and superimposes on it, not a crucified figure, but the luminous halo-ed figure of a modestly- garbed preacher. The contrast in the presentation of the figure is similar to the contrast between the chasuble itself with its flat-finish wool and the vivid embroidery.
The embroidered gold rectangles on the chasuble echo both the shapes of the church’s bricks, the fundamental elements of the church’s architecture, as well as the vertical bright elements of the light fixtures.
Karlstad Cathedral is in Värmland, in the province west of Stockholm which borders Norway. During 1966-7, the cathedral undertook a major renovation under the direction of architect Kurt von Schmalensee (1896-1972). Von Schmalensee had had a long successful architectural experience, participating in the 1930 Stockholm Exhibition and then as city architect in Norrköping. He also led a major rebuilding of Växjö Cathedral before he came to take on the Karlstad Cathedral, and worked on an entire rebuilding of the roof of the Linköping Cathedral at the same time as his work on Karlstad.
Von Schmalensee’s renovation reorganized the floor plan of the neoclassical 1730s Karlstad Cathedral, pulling a new second altar to a more visible central location aligned with the pulpit, and leaving the original altar at the end of the church as a largely decorative feature. All of the seating was now directed to this new free-standing altar. A small number of seats placed in front of the original altar serve the choir. From what I can see, the altar has kneelers on both sides of it, and the priests may be moving around the altar during the service. With the new altar, the church functions much more “in the round”, with congregants in eye contact across and around the new altar. The space is much brighter and despite its classical architectural detailing, feels very contemporary in the way it welcomes congregational participation.
In 1971 Odelqvist-Kruse designed a red frontal or antependium for the altar. I am assuming, but don’t know, that with the altar visible in the round, that there are antependium on both sides of the altar. In any case, the antependium with its tongues of flame marks the pentecostal period.
Ålidhems church in Umeå could not be more different architecturally from Karlstads Cathedral Built in 1972 and opened on the Thanksgiving day of the Swedish Church, October 14, in 1973, the church was a break-off congregation from the central Umeå city assembly, to serve the Ålidhems neighborhood south of Umeå university. Umeå is about 400 miles north of Stockholm. The Ålidhems kyrka was designed by architect Carl Nyren (1917-2011), who won a competition for with his proposal, which was titled “For Everyone.” Nyren clearly understood the church’s mission: the church prides itself on offering, as well as its Sunday services, weekday activities for many groups— nursery school age children and children of all ages, conversation and activity groups for the community’s adults. This church also currently serves Finnish language congregants, offering a service every 3 weeks in Finnish and opportunity to sing in Finnish.
Nyren was a contemporary of Odelqvist-Kruse. He practiced architecture in Stockholm, and is now regarded as one of the most characteristically Swedish of of Swedish architects,— probably meaning that his work embodies qualities of humanism modernism, forthrightness and a certain restraint which we associate with modern Swedish society.
Odelvist- Kruse’s wall hanging is a tour de force of washy watercolor-like strokes, and a loose image of many people gathered around a cross, that fits beautifully in the modest wooden church room. Looking more carefully, the cross in the tapestry is marked with the chi-rho symbol, the two greek letters superimposed of what looks like x and p, which are the first two letters of Christ’s name in Greek, and twelve golden blobs which may represent the eleven disciples surrounding the one blob at the center of the cross who bears the 5 red marks of Christ’s wounds. The coloration of the tapestry seems to vary in different lights, becoming more lively under electric lighting.
Odelqvist-Kruse, who had already designed an elegant archbishop’s cope for Uppsala Cathedral in 1964 (see last blog post) was commissioned by the cathedral in conjunction with a restoration of the Cathedral in 1971-76. The new project was for the design of wall-hangings to furnish one of the side chapels located around the nave of the cathedral. The Finsta Chapel memorializes St Birgitta (1303-73), the patron saint of Sweden, and is named after her father, Birger Persson of Finsta, who helped ratify the Law of Uppland in 1296. Birgitta’s mother and father are buried here, and their graves, with ledger stones set in the floor are of a dark black stone. Images of the couple are carved into the ledger stone, and there is a tiny carved portrait of Birgitta herself on the lower right corner of the stone.The chapel became through the years the burial place of a number of other Swedish royals, and was also chosen as the site for the 16th-century gold reliquary which holds the remains of St Erik, hero of a major 12th-century battle with the Danes.
Odelqvist Kruse drew on the general dark tones of the grave stones, and ledgers in the Finsta Chapel for her composition of three tapestries which now cover three sides of the chapel walls. The composition is titled, “From Darkness into Light,” and the western (left) end of the tapestry has the darkest grays and blacks, which become progressively lighter across the central panel, and the eastern (right) end of the tapestry is has lighter grey, silver and white tones. This is a very subtle progression, visible in high light (the first photo below), but not very visible under normal light. While there are some recognizable shapes — hourglasses, which have a very long history in Swedish textiles, with their reminder of mortality, and crosses, checkerboards, squares, triangles— these seem to read less as individual symbols and more as part of the composition’s overall texture. The tapestry is woven in a technique called HV weave, and the very quiet tonal differences and varied woven textures of these shapes raised from the surface of the tapestry is astonishing.
The title of the piece suggests some kind of spiritual evolution and to me, the raised individual elements suggest a sense of a place —a city, or the cathedral itself?—perhaps gradually moving from a dark history to a brighter one? But it is odd that the right hand panel seems less like a brightening of the woven elements of the first two panels than an erasure of them altogether. I was moved by the powerful darkness and severity of this piece, and its remarkable materiality, but readily admit to not entirely understanding it.
In the early 1970s, Lars Olof Torstensson (sometimes spelled Thorstensson) (1927- ) designed the new St. Petri church in Eskilstuna parish, west of Stockholm in Södermanlands. When he opened his own firm in 1962, Torstensson carved out something of a specialization in modern church architecture. His firm continues today,in Lidingö, carried on by his son. Located between Eskilstuna and Torshälla, this St. Petri church was dedicated in 1974. It was another modern Swedish church built in dark brick with uncompromisingly blocky massing. But the severity the church’s brick surface here was softened by the nature of the brick bond used, a style called Flemish bond which alternates larger (stretcher) and smaller header (end) bricks in each course, and aligns centers of ends over centers of stretchers in each course. The effect created by the use of this bond is a kind of subtle vertical striping in the surface of the wall made by the alignment of white mortar joints, which subtly distracts from or undercuts the sharp angles of the architectural forms. Blocky as the exterior may seem, it is a container for a beautifully quiet high open space, lit by high windows just under the roof.and one tall window in a wall adjacent to the altar, although the church is not bright when not illuminated. The overall tonality of the brick and the lowered plane established by the hanging boxy light fixtures make the interior of the church a wonderful simple backdrop for the enormous tapestry hanging behind the altar.
At an unknown date, Anna-Lisa Odelqvist Kruse provided this tapestry, which by my purely visual estimate is about 12’ x 16’ or 366 x 488 cm. It is a composition in blue called The Twelve Apostles. Her blues echo the blue of the church ceiling, and the piece provides a beautiful focus for the church space. The figures of the apostles seem to be indicated by the reverse-question mark shapes, six on either side of the central cross which is itself surrounded by a halo of light. Like her smaller tapestry for Ålidhems church in Umeå discussed above, this one has the effect of a large watercolor sketch. It is also interesting that the central figure here, set off by a more-or-less circular area woven with gold-yellow yarn, is clearly a cross, but it also recalls the shield-like heraldic funeral ornaments (called “begravningsvapen”) carried in traditional funeral processions and then hung on the walls of hundreds of traditional Swedish churches. It’s a kind of audacious adaptation of that form, as though Christ himself has been given a new and radiant version of those shield-shapes. (Somebody tell me if this is a ridiculous idea!)
In an update on this church building: it was closed in 2012 with severe moisture problems, but in 2016 a Christian preschool for 50 students was opened in the lower floor of the adjacent administrative building. What the situation is with Odelqvist-Kruse’s tapestry, I don’t know. Sweden has an active arts administration which rescues works of art in endangered public buildings and places them elsewhere. This may be the case here.
Prior to the restoration of Uppsala Cathedral in 1971-76, the cathedral began to explore the idea of repurposing some of the side chapels for individual or small-group worship. Sometime after 1961, Odelqvist-Kruse was invited to furnish another chapel at Uppsala Cathedral for this purpose. This was to be called the Peace Chapel, in honor of two Swedes committed to ecumenism and peace. One of these was Uppsala Cathedral Archbishop Nathan Söderblom (1866-1931) who received the 1925 Nobel Peace Prize for his ecumenical work towards an international system of arbitration and consistent applications of justice, and against racism, militarism and oppression of minority populations. The other honoree was Dag Hammarskjöld (1905-1961) who had been killed in 1961 in a suspicious plane crash over Rhodesia, while on his way to negotiate a Congo cease fire as Secretary General of the United Nations. Hammarskjöd was posthumously awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
Odelqvist Kruse delivered three tapestries for the three walls of this chapel in 1976. These were a masterful combination of weaving, fabric appliqué and embroidery. The cathedral walls are decorated with 19th century murals and stencil ornamentation. The hanging of these modern tapestries on the walls of this chapel warms and softens the space, much as did the woven tapestries hung on the stone walls of ancient castles. With modern architecture, Odelqvist-Kruse demonstrated her ability to make a powerful statement suited to the particular architecture of church she was working for. Here she needed to find a way to be contemporary within a very traditional architectural framework. The orange color she chose picks up the stencil color on the walls, and becomes dynamic and powerful with the added gold and silver elements. Once again, Odelqvist balanced Christian symbols of cross and dove and the circle representing unity or oneness with thoroughly modernistic expressions of divine light going out into all corners of the universe. Once again her little embroidered squiggles in the most elementary and almost archaic shorthand communicate the sense of individual souls, set within a larger context.
On the west side of Karlstad in Värmland, a new yellow-brick church was dedicated in 1978. This was Västerstrands Church , designed by architect Janne Feldt (1929-1997 ). One of the most successful Värmland architects, Feldt designed over fifty churches in the area. Called by the architect “the church on the prow of the wave,” the expressionist shape of Västerstrands Church also seems to address the nearby roadway, and may be visible from highway E-18 nearby. The phrase may also be a pun on the meaning of västerstrand, or western shore of the river Klarälven which flows through the city of Värmland.
The large wall-hanging Anna-Lisa Odelqvist-Kruse designed for the church is not dissimilar to the one she designed for St. Petri in Eskilstuna. Again, there are the large areas which look almost painted with washy blue strokes, and again, the tapestry centers on a cross. In this case the cross sits over a loosely-sketched in human figure, flanked by large red (wound-like?) slashes of color.
Also in 1978, Odelqvist-Kruse delivered a priest’s cope which had been commissioned by Falu Kristine Church in Falun, Dalarna county. Falun is north of Uppsala, the historic center of Sweden’s copper-mining industry. But this commission was quite different than the recent commissions shown above, not for a tapestry, but for a liturgical garment appropriate to this older church.
Falu Kristine church, which dates back to the 17th-century, has had a number of renovations, including one in 1903, and another, by architects Erik Lundberg and Erik Lundgren in 1965-66. The 1903 renovation made significant design changes to the interior. New patterned floors were installed and pieces of old carpentry from the pews, doors and end panels, were removed to reuse as panels for walls in the choir area. The formerly white color scheme was also given a new jolt of historically-inaccurate blue and gold color. The mid-century renovation in 1965-6 installed new heating, some new flooring, and repaired ceiling vaults. Sculptures of a local carver, Ewert Friis, were consolidated in one area in new chapel. The original intent of the two mid-century architects was to strip the blue color from the architectural woodwork, and return it to an older natural wood-tone, but this idea met great resistance from the congregation who had come to regard the “Dalarna Blue” as an outstanding feature of their church, historically accurate or not. In a certain sense it had become new history in the 60 years since the last renovation. Looking at the church today, one is grateful for that resistance! Tthe combination of the blue and the gold interior is quite spectacular.
Anna-Lisa Odelqvist Kruse’s design for a bishop’s cope could not have been more contemporary or more appropriate to the space. A fabric which appears to have a gold sheen ( perhaps some of the Bevilaqua silk damask?) is embroidered or appliquéd with golden zigzags, apparently casually-drawn, but with a modern elegance. The vestigial hood which covers the upper shoulders is even more golden in a kind of palmate design, and overlaid with the chi-rho insignia. One can only imagine how fantastic this would look moving through Falu Kristine’s vividly-colored architectural woodwork.
An odd posting from June 28, 2019 on the church’s Facebook page provides the unhappy background to this commission. It quotes a 1975 article in the newspaper Dagens Nyheter about the theft of 3 priest’s chasubles, a red one designed by Anna Rudbeck for Licium in 1906 (probably in connection with the 1903 renovation) and the two others, one white and one green, both designed by Agda Österberg for Libraria and acquired by the church in 1928 and 1930. Also stolen was a priest’s cope, of German make and less-fine quality. Presumably it was this garment which Odelqvist-Kruse had been asked to replace. The newspaper concludes with this reflection,
“One cannot help but wonder about the choice of stolen items and whether the textiles were hidden away somewhere where they have not yet been discovered. One thing is certain: The Falu Kristine congregation would be happy to take back the textiles.”
Despite the newspaper appeal at the time, it seems apparent that the stolen textiles remained missing.
In 1980, Odelqvist-Kruse was 55 years old. She stepped down from her role as CEO of Libraria, although she continued to be artistic director of the firm for another 5 years. Her husband, Sven, was 24 years her senior, and had probably retired from his Ramsele parish by 1970. At some point the couple moved closer to her work, and settled in Lidingö, a wealthy island suburb of Stockholm. (He died there in 1987).
in 1984 Odelqvist-Kruse completed a handsome wall-hanging for the
Marma Church, in Älvkarleby. This church is located about 100 miles north of Stockholm and just about 8 miles in from the coast. In 1985, Odelqvist-Kruse completed a wall hanging for this small rural church. The church itself is a very modest one whose founding was initiated by a local minister and whose construction was underwritten in part by a local department store in Gävle, the largest nearby city. It was dedicated in 1927 by Archbishop of Uppsala Cathedral who we have already encountered twice in this blog post. And its painted front wall behind the altar is a gift of Einar Forseth, another artist whose work we saw in the Essinge church in the first part of this blog post.
Odelqvist-Kruse’s wall-hanging serves to define the baptismal area, at the right front of the church. The dove descending from the apparent sky at the top of the tall textile panel recalls the Holy Spirit descending on Jesus at his baptism by John. The 12 figures below, with their characteristic Odelqvist-Kruse postures, are here a bit more fully defined by colorful robes. They may be the disciples or perhaps just as easily a gathering to witness a baptism. The colors, geometry and symbolism of this piece combine to present a wonderful example of Odelqvist-Kruse’s artistry, and a good place to end our tour of her very productive career. The fifteen pieces of liturgical work shown in these two blog posts give a sense of the range of items she designed, from small to large, her aesthetics, her deep pleasure in materials, her sympathy for different forms of church architecture, and her desire to push liturgical textiles in completely new directions.
And as a kind of coda, and appreciation for Odelqvist-Kruse’s large flat-weave rug designed in 1958 for her husband’s church at Ramsele, I share the following images, and a video of a concert performed in the Ramsele chuch in 2015 which show more of that rug than I was able to find in any other images. The first photo is one which was used in part 1 of this blog post, shown again here for church context, and the second is a still shot taken from the video which follows. I think the group is called Lanolaget, and that they have some Swedish and some Norwegian members. But feel free to correct me on this. For me the large carpet in Ramsele Church is as exciting as the musicians on the rug, although they are pretty terrific too!
The link to video of the concert from youtube:
Albertus, Sandra, pedagog, Karlstads domkyrka—email correspondence with about blue rug in front of church altar 4/24/20 (not by Odelqvist-Kruse)
Berggrén, Inger and Per. Kyrkorna i Karlstads Pastorat och Deras Skatter, Förlag Per Berggrén, 2017.
https://broderalfred.blogspot.com/2010/12/valsignade-kors.html photo of service in Ålidhemskyrka
Brunius, Jan and others, Svenska textiles 1890-1990 Bok förlaget Signum, Lund 1994.
Bukowskis, Stockholm auction house
https://ellenumanskaya.wordpress.com/2014/07/16/16/ “Time-travels in Scandinavia —Summer Studies of Contemporary Nordic Architecture” Swedish suburb Vallingby July 16, 2014
English precis of Mo, Ulla, I helig skrud – en studie över Anna-Lisa Odelqvist-Kruses sakrala textilkonst – avhandling, Institutionen för konstvetenskap, Umeå universitet, 2003, serie: “Umeå studies in history and theory of art” – nr.6, found at
Franzon, Annika A guide to Uppsala Cathedral, Uppsala Cathedral, publisher 2016
http://www.himlenarhar.se/exhibition/?lang=en Online catalog of 2014 exhibition of treasures in Uppsala Cathedral
http://www.inventaria.se/kontakt.htm Anna-Johanna von Platen. Email correspondance 3/24/20 and 2/25/20. With appreciation for photos of St. Tomas church chasuble, used with permission.
Karlstads Domkyrka , online book. “Boken ingår som nummer 40 i Carlstads-Gillets skriftserie och som nummer 10 i Stiftshistoriska Sällskapets skriftserie”
kyrkokartan.se, photos by Barbro Thörn, Janos Banan, Johnny Larsson and Sven Leonardsson as credited in photo captions
Larsson, Peter, “Tuffa prioriteringar för krympande kyrka – S:t Petri kyrka blir förskola” 11/28/2016 in ekurien.se https://www.ekuriren.se/nyheter/eskilstuna/tuffa-prioriteringar-for-krympande-kyrka-st-petri-kyrka-blir-forskola-sm4676915.aspx
http://www.queenmedia.se/kyrkor/karlstad/domkyrka/ Video tour of the Karlstad cathedral
Ridderstedt, Margareta, Veneziansk Sidendamast av svenska 1900-talskönstnar, Rikantiksvarieämbet in pfd download from http://samla.raa.se/xmlui/handle/raa/8629
Stockholms Auktionsverk, Stockholm auction house
Svensk Kinnobiographical Lexikon, http://www.skbl.se
Svenska kyrkan websites for various churches. I have borrowed and attributed photos from several different parishes.
Uppsala Cathedral, visit March 2020. All photos of the cathedral, if not otherwise acknowledged, are my own.
Västerbotten hemslöjd, publication on church textiles #4, 2012