Sunday, September 4, 2016

Skogskyrkogården aka The Forest Cemetery - "Today me, Tomorrow you".

I walk in this cemetery often, I always seem to discover a new aspect to appreciate.  Some might say this is because I have no sense of direction, so I can retread a path and think I am somewhere new.  I choose to believe that I am adding layers of understanding.
This walk however, I had enough time and battery to listen to the guided walk that was put up in 2015 I believe.  I listened to the first two in Swedish to see if I could understand anything, but as soon as they sped up (conversationally) I couldn't follow along.  I did okay with the introduction.
This cemetery is actually only the second largest in Sweden with over 100,000 graves, and they hold about 2,000 funerals each year.  
I was happy that my impressions of this place were actually what was intended by the architects; Gunnar Asplund (who also did the lovely city museum) and Sigurd Lewerentz.

I thought that the cemetery was unique to any I had been too, and I credited Sweden for this fact- the cemetery feels modern but there were aspects (like skull and crossbones) that I had only seen in ancient sites- 
The feeling of a 'circle of life', of drawing you in, and then releasing you back into the world.  All of this was intended, and the idea being radical at the time in the Western world.
I am always too busy to go on the tour, but now I know that visitors are not allowed in any of the chapels (which would be my only reason to go along) unless one is attending a funeral.  This is indeed a high price to pay.

The above is the Resurrection Chapel, the second Chapel built after (my favorite) the Woodland Chapel.
Surprisingly the controversy on this one is that Lewerentz wanted to build North to South. The city insisted on East to West (apparently this is a Christian tradition - strange as this cemetery strives to be non-denominational in its architecture)
A compromise was struck, the chapel is East to West and the Portico is North to South.

I also learned that the wall surrounding the cemetery is 3.4 kilometres, taking 10 years to complete.  The pine trees were there originally, as this cemetery was once all part of a larger forest that was on the edge of 'Stockholm city'.
The great wars and economy delayed the completion, by decades.
The trees are maintained, by care and re-planting of seedlings from the trees standing now. The trees are between 150 and 200 years old.

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