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Gammelstad Church Town, Gammelstads Kyrkstad, was listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996.
1000 years ago, Gammelstad in Swedish Lapland was an island at the mouth of the Lule river. The few people of the North-Bothnian culture group here lived from fishing and hunting and later from reindeer breeding. A rural culture arose at that time.
The church formed the political and cultural center of the widely dispersed population. After the Treaty of Nöteborg in 1323, Sweden and Russia disagreed about their northern border. Present-day Norrbotten was incorporated into the Swedish state. The church sent out priests and simple wooden churches.
In the 14th century, the church was also responsible for administrative tasks, like taxes and national censuses. One would have built a city hall in today’s time. At the beginning of the 15th century, one started the building of a stone church.
In the fifteenth century, a decree determined that trade was permitted only in cities. In 1621, Lulea was founded in lieu of the trading place. But, as early as 1649, one recognized that the port was becoming more and more absorbed by the Scandinavian postglacial rebound. Thus, Lulea was newly founded 10 km downstream, at the present place. Gammelstad is the old town of Lulea. A thousand years ago, Gammelstad was still 10 m lower.
Gammelstad Church Town – Gammelstads Kyrkstad
Christoffer, our guide from the Visitor center showed us a model of Gammelstad in the 13th century.
The parish of Gammelstad stretched over an area of 90.000 km ², greater than today’s Austria. Some churchgoers needed several days to come here. Thus each farmer, who lived more than 10 km away, was entitled to build a cottage here. Around the church are now about 400 small cottages.
The older population came together on holidays to celebrate the service, do trade and care for social contacts. During this time they were allowed to stay in their cottages. A permanent residence is not allowed in these houses. In the summer the young people come here for the confirmation lesson, often with the intention of finding a partner for life.
Christoffer tells us that during this time the girls sit at the windows of the cottages and are then addressed by young men. All of course under the strict supervision of the parents. To this extent, Gammelstads Church Town has crystallized as a marriages market since it is often the only way to get to know each other.
We have noticed the cultural difference compared to some areas in Germany, such as in the Eifel. The villages have insulated and treated with hostility themselves centuries for a long time against each other in Germany. This is the reason that three surnames prevail in most villages today. They stayed among themselves. This is not the case in Sweden.
Tour around Gammelstad Church Town
We start with our guided tour at the church. The wall around it is interrupted only by two doors. Embrasures testify, that of this the church was used also for defense purposes.
The carved altar screen was made in1520 in Antwerp and costs 900 silver marks. It is said that the Lulea farmers paid this enormous sum by cash. This shows the prosperity of the population. The altar screen is one of the most beautiful in the country.
The pulpit and the commemorative plaques were made by Nils Jacobsson Fluur at the beginning of the 18th century. The organ with 4200 pipes, built by Grönlunds Orgelbyggeri AB in Gammelstad, was inaugurated in 1971.
South of the church is the mighty community storehouse. First, the people paid their tax here and later it became as a storage for the seed.
Across the street is the community hall, place of assembly and prison.
At some houses, we see big grappling hooks. Christoffer explains to us these serve the firefighting. The danger that a wooden house is on fire is, of course, very large.
There was not a fire brigade so one had to help himself. One pulled down the burning parts with the grappling hooks and then one tried to damp down or to extinguish the fire.
Past a mighty draw fountain, presumably responsible the water supply of the Gammelstad Church Town, we go cottage No. 253 in Framlänningsvägen. It is open for visitors during summer.
A young woman gives us an overview of the facilities and some insights about the life in this cottage. The facilities are simple, but there is everything necessary for everyday life. Stove, washing-place, bed and table already cover the needs. Sometimes there is a wardrobe and a couch.
We walk only a few hundred meters through a beautiful cultural landscape to our next stop.
Open-air museum Hägnan
Meadows, happy animals, playgrounds, and visitors, especially with children, bring the old times to life.
It is around the noon, time for lunch. We enjoy a Swedish gravad lax.
Afterward, Marita awaits us. She is one of the good souls of the open-air museum. First, she leads us through the house, which probably belonged to a local family.
In addition to an extensive kitchen inventory, there is even a loom.
Marita wants to bring us closer to the daily life of that time. Therefore she invites us to make our own butter. At the time then, butter was as valuable as money. From the proceeds, one could allow himself a certain luxury. Some bought silver cutlery, others built windows in the back part and upper part in their houses.
We experience the unplanned problems in the course of a day while we are churning butter. The pestle is not fixed correctly and prevents the butter from getting stiff. Only when this is repaired provisionally, the result turns out well to all satisfaction. In the meantime, others prepare the salt.
Next, we produce the typical Swedish bread. The oven is already preheated and at operating temperature. Eager and with great fun, we knead, divide, and roll. When handling the bread in the oven, however, no one can reach the routine of Marita.
We notice the enthusiasm of Marita for the village and especially for the old life.
Then she invites us to her cottage. We thankfully accept the invitation. Marita shows how she lives here and gives us more information about the everyday life in Gammelstad Church Town.
She also brought our home-baked bread. We enjoy it with butter and a cup of coffee.
Marita is especially proud of the location of her house. Through the window, she surveys the entire church square and is always informed about what’s is going on in Gammelstad Church Town.
During our visit in Lulea we stayed at the Clarion Hotel Sense
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Many thanks to Christoffer from the Visitor Center of Gammelstad and Camilla of Visit Luleå, who accompanied and chauffeured us-us on this day. Our special thanks go to Marita from the Hägnan Museum for the invitation to her own cottage.
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