Sunday, October 22, 2017

Inspired Sunday – Habo Church


Yet another old red wooden church from our trip around Lake Vättern back in July: Habo Church.

This church also goes by the name of “The Wooden Cathedral”. The architecture resembles that of a cathedral, but it is built entirely of wood. It has the form of a basilica, with a high nave and two lower side aisles. It was built in 1680, and received its present appearance in 1723. The vestry dates back to an older stone church from the 13th century. The tower on the west side of the church is only for decoration and has no bells inside. In the separate belltower from 1760, there are three bells of different size, all made in Jönköping in the mid 1700s (one of them was recast in the 1870s).

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The inside of the church was decorated in 1741 – 1743 by two painters from Jönköping, Johan Kinnerus and Johan Christian Peterson. (Cf. my post last week from Brandstorp Church, another of the old wooden churches in this area.)  It’s a real challenge for an amateur photographer to do justice to!

The paintings in this church cover the walls as well as the ceiling, and are illustrations to Martin Luther’s Cathecism. Besides the common themes of the crucifixion and resurrection there are paintings representing the ten commandments, and church rituals like baptism, confession, communion, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Old Testament blessing.


The architecture of the church reflects the old class society from previous centuries. The rich landowners had their own boxes (six of them, on both sides of the altar at the front) to separate them from the lower classes. (They even had their own entrance to the church.) The farmers sat in the pews in the front of the church; the poorer crofters at the back; and the upstairs galleries along the sides were for farm-hands and servants.


The pulpit was made in 1723 and is decorated with sculptures of Jesus and the twelve apostles.

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The altar is made of sandstone and is from the 1300s. In a restoration of the church in the 1700s, a shrine was found inside the altar, and inside it a piece of parchment which stated that the altar had been consecrated by a bishop in the mid 1300s.


The clock included in the altarpiece is unique. It was built in Jönköping in 1750 and only has an hour-hand. The clock can be heard ticking in the church and every half-hour the boy on top strikes a bell with his hammers.


The front of the organ is from the original organ built in 1736.



From the back of the church (beneath the organ)


All the pews are decorated, too.


The baptismal font made of sandstone is the oldest object in the church and dates back to the mid 12th century. Back in those days, babies were immersed in the font when they were baptised. The water used in the basin was let out through a hole at the bottom.

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The medeival stone sacristy is nowadays a prayer/meditation room.

The church is still a “living” church and not just a museum. Services are held here most Sundays. But the church is also kept open daytime on weekdays throughout the year for visitors.

InSPIREd Sunday


  1. So ornate inside and yet so simple on the out. Red seems such an extraordinary color for a church, but I quite like it.

    1. I have to confess that before this trip, I did not know we had so many red wooden churches left in this part of Sweden either. Had I just seen pictures, I'd have guessed them to be further north. Red wooden buildings were and are very common throughout Sweden, though, because of a special kind of red paint, Falu red, dating back to the 16th century. A bi-product from copper mining, and especially the mine in Falun, Dalarna (Dalecarlia).

  2. This is fabulous. Lucky you to see it in person. The outside looks one way but the interior is amazing. I have seen some one-hand watches but never a clock in this style. Definitely, this place is both inspired and an inspiration.

    1. Louise, I have never seen a clock set in an altar piece in a church before either.

  3. I have never seen a church anything like this! So much to see! The tower is very uniquely done. A favorite is the paintings on the balconies. I am glad they were able to leave the baptismal font there. There are so many paintings and works of are here, so that everywhere you look there is something of beauty or interest.

    1. I've never seen another church quite like it either, Ginny. While I really prefer a simpler style myself, I'm glad they have managed to preserve it "in all its glory" as there is so much history in all the details.

  4. It is a very unusual church, inside and out! I don't think I have ever seen a church (or heard of one) with a clock above the altar.
    How come they decided at some stage to build a wooden church where there used to be a stone one? Usually, it was the other way round, wasn't it - first a humble wooden building and then an enlarged and more ornate version in stone.

    1. Meike, I have never seen a clock above an altar before either!
      As for why they decided to build a wooden church instead of a stone one, I don't know. I'm guessing they needed a larger church, and perhaps (I'm really just guessing now) it was quicker and/or cheaper to build one of wood rather than one of stone. Or perhaps it was just the "fashion" at that point in time? (considering that there are more wooden churches in the same area)

  5. Thought it was nice outside but it's stunning inside

    1. 'Stunning' is certainly the correct word in this case, Bill. The impression when one comes inside is really quite overwhelming and one hardly knows where to look!

  6. it is good that they leave the church for visitors to see all of this. I like the outside better than the inside. I love the lines of the church, the inside is amazing but to ornate for my taste. I like simple like the outside. it is beautiful. I searhed for red churches in USA and there are many, one is here in Bradenton and I have taken photos, but it is brick not painted red...

    1. Sandra, I have to agree that for worship/meditation I really prefer a simpler style myself - all these decorations are really rather overwhelming! At the same time I'm glad they've preserved it the way it was done from start, as it also connects to and teaches us things about church history.

  7. I've heard of people 'buying' their pews, but not a segregation of people to quite this extent.

    1. There was a very strict social hierarchy back in those days, Violet, also in politics/parliament. The democracy we take for granted today is really rather young, when one starts thinking about it. For example, women weren't allowed to vote until 1921!

  8. I am totally amazed by the opulence of the church. I thing the idea of the 'lowliest' being in the highest seats ('nearest to God and heaven') is rather amusing and probably says something about society too.

    1. An interesting point, Graham! (Not wholly convinced that's what the architects had in mind, but...)


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