Braathen Dendrokronologiska Undersökningar


Gökhem parish church is situated about 10 km West of Falköping in Skara diocese. The chancel has an apsis. The nave has been prolonged one third westwards of its length. The walls consist of dressed limestone in cavity wall technique. The apsis only has protruding ground plate with an inclined edge. The chancel and the nave seem to be built without steady bond, a thorough investigation is not possible unless the plaster is removed.

Of the original timber in the chancel five pieces of oak remain only. They are all dated. There is no trace which marks reused timber. A brace piece close to the East gable contains 15 annual rings in sapwood. Along the width of 26 mm of the surface there seems to be waney edge. The outermost annual ring is dated 1077. The chancel might have been ready for inauguration in the autumn 1078

The older part of the nave has the main part of the roof structure preserved. The struts are beautifully carved into profiles in differens shapes. The joists have a broader dimension as necessary, the square section is about 21x25 cm, and the side surfaces are shaped convex, all apparently in order to give a beautiful space containing shadows and illuminated beams from the light through two small windows high up i the South wall. The joists and the struts were meant to be seen from below in the nave.

The capping pieces of oak are embedded in the limestone walls. A major part of them is destroyed by insects and rot. The outermost available annual ring is dated 1098. Outside that annual ring is a course of 24 mm depth, distroyed by insects. The surface of the piece is sparcely penetrated by inseccts, and near the surface are traces of sapwood. From what is observed the period within which the oak was felled is the 1130:ies, one or two decades later cannot be excluded.

I have also taken bore cores in some of the pine joists. Though I have not found waney edge in any of the timbers, I have planned to take more wood samples in the future in order to get closer to the year when the roof of the nave was erected.

Concerning the big difference in time when the chancel and the nave were erected I leave to the reader to speculate. For those who know a lot about european history and missionary societies in the 11th and 12th centuries it might be tempting to try to get a picture of what was going on at Gökhem. About 200 m East of the present church is a ruin from a smaller church with a squared chancel. Among my dated churches (See Dated wood from Gotland and the diocese of Skara) we can select two groups with squared chancel, one is coupled to the middle of the 12th century and the other to the end of the same century. Still the building itself has a lot to tell.