Braathen Dendrokronologiska Undersökningar

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Bäl church, Gotland

Bäl (Sv.K. vol II - III) , parish church about 20 km east of Visby. The chancel deviates slightly from rectangular shape because the northern wall is longer than the southern wall. These walls are not exactly parallel to the corresponding walls of the nave and tower which are built with perpendicular angles.

The archivolt of the round-arched portal of the chancel is composed of alternating dark and light lime-stones. At the place of the key-stone there are three bricks. It is uncertain if these have been put in position as decorative elements when the portal embrace was mounted or after. The two windows of the chancel are framed by bricks.

The portal of the nave has pointed archivolt. The tympanum has arabesques in six fields at two semicircular notches at its lower edge. The capitals are leaf-ornamented.

The portal embrace protrudes very much from the wall and for that reason may have been mounted after the erection of the nave. It is possible to get an answer after investigation as to whether the portal embrace is contemporaneous with the nave or not.

At my visit in 1982 at the church there was a long oak beam with a cross-section of 22x22 cm preserved in a store-room. According to the church-warden the beam earlier had been preserved at the southern wall-head of the nave. A bore-core ('Bäl 2') was taken in the beam at a spot with remaining sap-wood. The bore-core contains four annual rings of sap-wood. The outermost one was dated 1132, which leads to that the felling year of the oak was within 1143 - 1147.

Bore-cores were also taken in capping pieces of oak in the chancel. These could not be dated because of too many narrow annual rings. The beams are the only pieces of oak which I have found in a roof construction from the 13th century or later. Oak is the kind of wood which was mainly used in capping pieces in the 12th century churches in southern Sweden and in western and southern Europe.

Out of the dating result from 'Bäl 2' we may assume that the present church was preceded by a stone church which was erected in the period 1143 - 1147 and that the beam because of its length was an inner capping piece in the nave.

A scaffolding pole, a re-cut pine pole with waney edge ('Bäl 11') under the relieving arch in the western wall of the chancel is dated 1240 and dates the erection of the chancel.

A scaffolding pole, a pine pole with waney edge north of the entrance opening in the eastern wall of the nave is dated 1265 and dates the erection of the nave. The walls in the western part of the nave continue into the tower which probably was erected contemporaneously with the nave.