I didn’t know what to title this post because the building that is its subject has a number of accepted and acceptable names. In the end, I chose the one that is most comfortable for my atheist, English ears, Stockholm Cathedral.
It’s other names include Storkyrkan, The Great Church (Storkyrkan is Swedish for The Great Church) and the Church of St. Nicholas. Swedes also know it by the Swedish-language versions of Church of St. Nicholas and Stockholm Cathedral, but I didn’t include those Swedish names in the list in the previous sentence because English-language tour books rarely provide them, but they do list Storkyrkan.
I didn’t think the exterior of Stockholm Cathedral was particularly attractive. On the contrary, I thought that it was rather humdrum, so I haven’t included a picture here. The outer walls were subdued orangey and grey colours with what, to my eyes, was a rather plain design.
There was a tower, but what church doesn’t have a tower of some sort (possibly more appropriately labelled a steeple)? And Stockholm Cathedral’s tower didn’t, to my taste, border anywhere close to spectacular. It just barely touched in the vicinity of mundane for me. Or maybe I’m was just becoming jaded at that point. My trips to Europe tend to involve visiting at least a few majestic, old churches. Isn’t that what every North American atheist does when visiting Europe?
Rather than post a picture of what I found to be the unimpressive exterior of Stockholm Cathedral, I decided to save the space for photos of the interior, which was magnificent. You’ll find those pictures scattered about on this page.
The cathedral is replete with bold arches; beautifully carved, rich-coloured wood; intricate, gold-coloured carvings on balcony walls; an inspiring ornamental pulpit; an impressive main altar known as The Silver Altar; handsome chandeliers; and lots of sculptures of various styles.
Just don’t ask me why there is a small model of a ship hanging by a near-invisible wire about a quarter of the way up from the floor to the ceiling toward the back and off to one side of the church. That seemed totally incongruous to me, but there is probably some reason for it. Then again, it’s a church, a place where faith crowds out logic. So, I probably shouldn’t have been surprised by any apparent lack of reason.
Dragon, Meet Saint
As I sauntered through Storkyrkan, it didn’t take me long to realize that this church is the genuine article, rather than a home to some flimsy excuse for a religion. I knew this because the cathedral contains a large, imposing statue of Saint George slaying the dragon.
There you have it. This church isn’t satisfied with just one or maybe a few invisible deities and, possibly, their formerly human-form child or children. No way. These folks raise their faith’s credibility to new heights by also giving a saint and a dragon a place of prominence in their place of worship.
The statue of St. George and the dragon also serves as a reliquary. Why do churches do that? This reliquary supposedly contains bones that were allegedly from Saint George. I’ve seen other European Catholic churches with reliquaries that contain, for example, fingers allegedly from dead people who had good enough posthumous PR to get sainted. I am not a person of faith, so I don’t understand these things, but how does a saint eternally giving you the finger contribute to your faith?
Not surprising, there is a pipe organ in the Stockholm Cathedral. While I was there, someone played the organ for a while. He or she might have also been playing with his or her organ; I don’t know because the person wasn’t visible to me. Regardless, the organist seemed to be quite happy. I don’t know what song he or she was playing, but it was a quite lively tune that didn’t sound the least bit religious, which made me feel a little more at home amongst the beauty of the cathedral.