I am not what you would call a religious type. At all. In fact, some deem me anti-religious, and there is some truth to that. This fact does not mean that I cannot admire and love gorgeous architecture, or historical significance of ancient churches. The coolest of all of the ancient churches I have visited around the world is, by far, Lunds Domkyrka (or Lund Cathedral) in southern Sweden.
Lund is the site of many firsts in Sweden. The oldest and coolest University is here, and still sought after by students world-wide. The Lund Cathedral is another first. It is the first church to have an Archbishop (Ascer) in Sweden. Lund Cathedral was begun to be built in 1080, then in 1123 Archbishop Ascer consecrated the high alter in the lower crypt. Later came Archbishop Eskil who then consecrated the entire church in 1145. It amazes me that this magnificent building is still standing and, indeed, still actively used.
Lund is in the region we call Skane, which is the southern most region of Sweden. Back in the day, it switched hands between Sweden and Denmark on a regular bloody basis. The Skane Wars are probably the most violent period in the history of Sweden (and Denmark.) Although the two countries get along now, it wasn’t always so, and during this prolonged war numerous churches and castles were destroyed. So yes, it is a bit of a ‘miracle’ that Lund Cathedral survived that era intact. Yes, parts have had to be restored, and parts have been added onto, but there it is, still standing in all it’s glory.
The architecture of Lund Cathedral is beyond Gothic. It is black stone and kind of hovers there looking like it is awaiting a horde of vampires to descend and lay claim to it. It is the coolest of the cool Medieval buildings. That cool factor does not end outside the structure. Oh no. When you enter the breathtaking cathedral, walk straight back and open that door. Go ahead. Go down those stairs. Yes, it is allowed…
Down the stairs behind the door you will find the crypts. Oooooh! Ahhhhh! I have found some extremely awe inspiring things on my adventures through Sweden, but these crypts top the lot. We are talking crypts from the Medieval time period. Crypts of knights from days of old; crypts of the bishops, archbishops, and their wives from back in the day; and enormous statues guarding them all (not the least of which is Giant Finn.) They had no taboos about walking on graves back then, so many are set into the floor of this crypt. You would have a hard time not stepping on any of them. The most important people have raised caskets on their pedestals. You can wander and snap photos to your heart’s content down here. Some of the engravings on the tomb stones are well worn, but you can just make out dates and names on quite a few of them.
Back up into the main part of Lund Cathedral is where you can find the Horologium mirabel Lundense. This is an ancient time and date masterpiece from 1424. It is still accurate today. It is just breathtaking to behold. I sat for quite awhile just staring at it the first time I saw it. The detail is amazing. All the little intricate parts still move around, keeping visitors like me mesmerized.
The current altar itself dates back to 1398, and the carved wood choir stalls from a few years before that. The whole cathedral is just a work of art. Everywhere you look is a piece of history and you are submerged in it the minute you mount the steps to go in.
As I said, Lund Cathedral is still a very active and important church today. This means that you do not want to visit on a Sunday unless you want to attend services. During the week they offer guided tours at both 11:15 and 14:50 (that’s 2:50pm to you yanks) but you can pretty much visit and guide yourself any time. Do check their website though to make sure there is no prior special event going on, like a wedding or some such.
Lund Cathedral has a small museum with artifacts dating back to the 12th century with costumes and gadgets and such, as well as a small gift shop where you can pick up brochures, pens, miniatures, etc for very reasonable prices. You can also, of course, leave a donation at many spots within the Lund Cathedral.
The bottom line is that if you are traveling to Sweden and are like me, the type who loves to get a feel for the history of a place, then you cannot pass up seeing Lund Cathedral. It is as grand as any castle I have ever seen. Entry is free.