Braathen Dendrokronologiska Undersökningar

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Dated timber from churches in western Sweden

Most of the dates which are given in the following are from churches in the diocese of Skara which in the 13th century had about 550 churches, most of which were built of stone. Contrary to Gotland the belfries were built in centuries after the great building period of the stone churches.

That building period stretches from about 1120 to about 1200. The oldest dated stone church is Kungslena, which was erected in about 1120. Three dated stave-churches hint an earlier period of wooden churches, which comprises the last decades of the 11th century until the first decades of the 12th century. In the 14th century a few chancels were rebuilt for more space. One may guess that the demand for increased space was due to that new elements in the church service might have been introduced, e.g. performance of scenes from the Bible.

The great period of rebuilding came in the 18th century when in many cases the nave was extended to the west, sometimes in connection with the erection of a tower belfry, or as an alternative, the transverse arch of the chancel was removed and new walls were built from the east end of the nave to the east wall of the chancel, or the nave was extended with unbroken wall up to the east wall of the chancel. By the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century in some cases the space of the nave was extended by arms of the transept. These alterations have not affected the original shape of dominant parts of the churches.

The medieval churches are a rich source for investigations. Most of the medieval baptist fonts are preserved.

Literature on fonts have been published by S.-A. Hallbäck and O. Reutersvärd. Extensive descriptions on churches in the province have been published to minor part only.

Those churches dated give a selection which is a good representation of all the medieval churches in the diocese. In the selection are churches with apse (e.g. Eriksberg, Skälvum), squared chancel (e.g. Skalunda, Strö), narrow chancel transept arch (e.g. Suntak), outward inclining walls (Götene), open truss, shaped to be seen from down the nave (e.g. Gökhem) and rich decoration in stone works (e.g. Forshem). Both architecture and ornaments show traces of influence from west (England and Norway) and from south (where in literature often the archbishopric of Bremen is mentioned). Among the fonts a few are made on Gotland.

December 1995
Alf Bråthen