Monday, October 15, 2018

The Road to Vetlanda

Burial Mounds
The drive from Uppsala to Vetlanda is about four hours so we had time to make a few stops. The first of these was at Gamle Uppsala just out of town. Old Uppsala is one of Sweden’s most important historical areas dating back to the 6th century. Several large mounds are ancient burial sites where funeral pyres were hot enough to destroy almost all the treasures buried with the royal dead. A short distance away boat graves do yield archaeological delights as the boats were filled with food and treasures for the afterlife.

The old church at Gamle Uppsala

The 12th century church next to the mounds was a cathedral before it burned and was replaced by the larger spired cathedral in town. The replacement church is filled with artwork on walls and ceilings. We were too early to check out the well-regarded museum but thoroughly enjoyed our walk through the grounds and visit to the church.

The restaurant
Part of the old town
Separate bell tower
About an hour after leaving Gamle Uppsala I spied an interesting church tower a short distance from the highway. A quick turn to the right and a short winding farm road later we arrived at the Björksta Church. Construction began on this church in the 1200s and the tower was added 200 years later. As beautiful as the church is from the outside in its rural setting on a hill, the inside is even more impressive. Several walls exhibit paintings over 500 years old. The bronze baptismal font by Peter of Västerås in 1529 is the oldest and finest of his works. The frescoed vault complements the pulpit and altar beautifully. We were a bit surprised to not see a major organ over the entrance, but the church does have lovely modern one to the side of the sanctuary.

Unfortunately, we didn’t learn until later that this is one of the most important Swedish sites for ancient rock carvings, one of which is displayed in the church walls. This happens more often than, as an experienced traveler, I’d like to admit. But that occurs when you make unscheduled stops just because a place looks interesting and probably isn’t in the guide book anyway.

An hour or so later we stopped for a burger in Åskersund (at McDonald’s, but please don’t tell anyone). Next to the roundabout was another striking example of Swedish church architecture. Åskersunds Landskyrka was built of stone with a wooden roof during the Middle Ages. Destroyed by fire in 1661, Johan Oxenstjerna hired an architect to rebuild it. Before construction could begin, he died and his young widow Christina despaired that she would not be able to afford the reconstruction costs. Her sister advised her to talk to Count Gustav Soop who agreed to finance the new church. They married in time for the church dedication in 1670. The Oxenstjerna and Soop coats of arms highlight the wall displays. Wood carvings on the pulpit show the Passion. The altarpiece shows the Last Supper and Crucifixion. The organ was added in 1790. Christina and her two husbands have their coffins in the church.

The rest of the drive to Vetlanda was an uneventful drive through the beautiful countryside.

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