Brännkyrka kyrka i Älvsjö

Brännkyrka Church is said to be the second oldest building in Stockholm. During eight centuries it has seen both battles and kings – and a few devastating fires – come and go. It lies with its tower and high chancel along Götalandsvägen, the historic route southwards from Stockholm. Just south of the churchyard there used to be a lake, Kyrksjön, which was drained during the 20th century when Stockholm expanded. Once Brännkyrka Church and its parish covered most of the then rural areas south of the city, but today it is one of many suburban places of worship.

Towards the end of the 12th century the first stones of the church building were laid, and since then it has burned down and been rebuilt numerous times. Originally the church was called Vantör, but in 1425 the name Brännkyrka appears in written sources for the first time. Brännkyrka translates to “Burn church”, and it is likely that a fire hit the church some time in the early 15th century. It is also said that Danish troops burned the church to the ground in 1452 and at the Battle of Brännkyrka in 1518.

Two deceased kings passed Brännkyrka Church on their way to their final rest in Stockholm in the 17th century; Gustav II Adolf, and some decades later his nephew Karl X Gustav. In 1723 a thunderstorm resulted in what is hopefully the last fire to destroy Brännkyrka Church.

Originally, the church was nearly quadratic, with a narrow chancel to the east. Close to the entrance you can find fragments of medieval consecration crosses on the north and south walls. The tower was added during the first half of the 13th century. The roof of the main body extends on the sides of the tower, which is a rare appearance in these parts of Sweden.

In 1713 a stand-alone bell tower was erected, but in 1819 it was removed, when the bells were placed in the church tower. Around 1770 a votive ship was donated by the wife of a local merchant. Today it hangs from the ceiling on the right side of the aisle together with a 17th century Danish votive ship.

During the 19th century several reconstructions were made; the building was lengthened, a sacristy was added in connection to the chancel and the tower was given a spire. The organ loft dates from around 1850. However, the organ itself, based on an 1830s model, was installed in 2012.

In 1975 Brännkyrka Church got its present look. A new sacristy came into existence by the north wall, and where the previous sacristy was situated, a high chancel was built. Another renovation in 2004 brought some minor changes, such as the current light grey nuance of the ceiling.

Brännkyrka kyrka altartavla - Livsresan av Bertil Vallien

The altarpiece

The altarpiece, “Livsresan” (The Life Journey), by noted Swedish glass artist Bertil Vallien, was inaugurated in 2011. The circular form is inspired by medieval rose windows, and symbolizes God, encompassing everything between heaven and underworld. In the cross you can see the face of Jesus. The crossbar is in the form of a boat, as if Jesus held it in his arms. Around it are 16 glass blocks with motives from the Bible. The beams at the top represents the Holy Spirit, able to cross all boundaries. On the north wall there are three additional glass blocks belonging to the altarpiece, depicting hardships a Christian may face.