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Church of the roses
So called because of all the roses depicted, carved and displayed in and on the church. The real name is Sankt Johannes (St. John’s) kyrka. Despite appearances, it’s a Lutheran church built btw 1903 and 1907 . Originally, it was meant to be finished at the same time as the parish was founded, in 1906, but a building strike delayed the project, and the church wasn’t ready before bishop Gotfrid Biling consecrated it on July 1 1907, at the cost of 548 000 of the original 300 000 Swedish kroner. The architect Axel Anderberg (27th November 1860-1937) was mostly known for Stockholm’s Opera, and a lot of other theatre buildings. He mostly operated in Stockholm, but there are two other buildings created by him here in Malmö. Both are at Stortorget.
When the church was built, and the first few years of its existence it was placed far away from the city . However the city was growing fast, and now we’re considering the church to be very central. A few years after completion a new school was built on the adjacent ground. The school was built without a room big enough to house all the students, so they used the church every morning for morning call.
The building is almost completely in Jugend style , a style popular between 1896 and 1914, with roots in the Art Nouveau-movement. The exterior is made of read bricks from Börringe, Granit from the west coast and limestone from Närke and Gotland. Earlier the tower was always placed above the entrance of the church (usually at the west end), but Anderberg chose to put it at the northeastern point of the church. He did this to mark that it was a new time with new ideas and possibilities.
The roses are everywhere in this church. According to the architect, they symbolize Jesus, and his eternal love and pain. I don’t think anyone knows how many roses there are in the church. They have been too many to count. There are roses carved into the entrance and exterior, painted on the walls, carved on the pillars, in the stained windows, below the baptism cross (always 5 live roses).
At the main entrance of the church you can see the year 1906 carved into the building. This is the year the church was meant to be finished, but wasn’t. You will also see the royal monogram of Oscar II. He was Sweden’s king at the time of the opening.
Going into the church, you’ll probably won’t notice the small room you’re passing between the doors. Some people say that the church doesn’t have a weapon house . I think that’s incorrect, it’s just very small. Above the entrance to the church itself, you can read “Välsignad ska du vara när du ingår. Välsignad ska du vara när du utgår”. It’s a quote from Deutoronomium 28:6 ensuring that all those who seek God are blessed.
Further, into the actual church you can see that the whole thing is practically one big room (width 15 m, height 26 m and just short of 50 m long). The floor is made out of limestone from Öland. The white stones are no longer quarried, except for buildings that already have the stones. I’ve heard it said that they use 20 different kinds of stone in the floor. The pillars are made of granite.
As you step into the main part of the ship, you’ll notice the three big windows on each side. All the symbols in the stained glass tell the same thing, except one at the top of the window. Look carefully and you’ll see an A, a mirrored Christ monogram, an O, a challis, an axe and some grapes. They are supposed to remind us of the communion, and Christ (who is Alfa and Omega). The arrangement of the windows are actually wrong. The person that installed them installed the O and Christ monogram in each other place. He also installed them with the inside facing out, which is why they are mirrored.
Standing at the same place, you’ll also notice the angels depicted on the walls. They are purposely painted in a way that their gender is difficult to determine. The ones on the south side remind us of the main part in the service (palm for jubilance, praying, singing to the Lord a new song). On the northern side, we are reminded of the three most important things: Faith, hope and love. Love is here depicted with roses. After all, we are in the church of the roses.
Standing at the choir, you’ll see the triumphant arch with three rather serious looking men. They are (from lower left corner up over the arch). Claus Mortensen, who was Denmark’s, and therefore Skåne’s reformer. He started his reformation work in Malmö, and the place he did most of his preaching was close by this site. The next man is Olaus Petri, which did nothing in Malmö (we were Danish at the time), but worked to reform Sweden. Above the pulpit is Martin Luther, who was the one who started the reformation in Europe. Below Luther is the pulpit, indicating that the priest is continuing the work of these men.
Standing in front of the triumphant arch, freemasons should have a look at the floor their standing on. Away from prying eyes, the carpet that leads up to the pulpit is made by the textile artist Märta Måås-Fjetterström. Speaking of the pulpit: it contains the only carvings done elsewhere and brought to the church. The five panels show scenes from Jesus’s life (birth, 12-year old in the temple, baptism in the river Jordan, crucifixion and resurrection) and is carved in Stockholm.
Towards the top of the triumphant arch we see symbols of the four apostles: A lion (Mark), a winged man (Mathew), an ox (Luke) and an eagle (John). At the top you have the all seeing eye of God flanked by angels and two Christ monograms. All the paintings in the church have been painted by Johan Gullstrand from the company Antonssons målerifirma. According to one of the sources he used his own children as models for the angels. The apostle John is also depicted in the window on the north facing chapel, inside the baptismal font (when in use), and in the triumphant arc, since it is believed that the apostle John is the same person as the evangelist John.
The altar is made of marble from Kolmården and Italy. The altarpiece (from 1909) in oak was made by Harald Sörensen-Ringi. He used his own family as models. The woman kneeling close to Jesus is his wife, and the two boys are his sons. His parents are standing behind Jesus on the northern side. Do also note the woman on the far left. It is quite unusual to have a depicting of a woman breastfeeding on an altarpiece. The text on the altarpiece isn’t a quote from the bible, but loosely translates to “He’s wandering around doing good”. All woodcarvings in the church (except on the pulpit) and all stone carvings was carried out inside the church itself.
On the walls around the altar is painted five angels. The first ones on each side holding weapons to restore order. The two next angels are holding bread and wine, elements in the communion. The last angel is almost invisible behind the altarpiece. He or she is holding a banner with the words “Holy, Holy, Holy”. At the time the church was build, the traditional opening of a church service started with these three words being spoken. Traditionally churches have twelve angels, but the twelfth angel in this church was removed. It was originally a carved angel at the top of the altar. Several plaster casts have been made of the altar. Now there are copies in use in Norrland and Finland.
The main organ in the church replaced an earlier organ in 4-7 September 2008. The original organ was made by Åkerman & Lund in Sundbyberg. It was first used at the inauguration of the church, even if only a third of the organ was finished. This organ was replaced in 1957 for the 50th anniversary of the church. The old style was by then considered old fashioned. The then new organ was made by Flentorp, using 14 of the original pipes. In 2003 it was decided to replace the 1957-organ with a new organ. The organ that is here today was made by Åkerman & Lund – the same firm that made the original organ – but with numerous differences in volume and style. The new organ is considerable more imposing than the original organ, which means that they now cover almost the entire western window. The best view of this window is therefore from as far into the church as possible. From there you can see that the symbol in the middle of the window resembles a square with loops at the corners. This is the same symbol you might find on road signs, indicating there is something interesting to see. It is actually an old Norse symbol for eternity. There are two other organs in the church. Both of these organs are small, and were donated to the church. The organ in the northern chapel, called the choirorgan, was built in 1969 by Anders Perssons orgelbyggeri in Viken. The other organ was donated in 2004 by Ulla and Birger Håstadius for the 100-year anniversary of the church. It’s main use is for barock orchestra and smaller services. It’s built by H. Klop Harpsicords and Organs in Garderen, Holland.
The church bells were made in Lübeck by M & O Ohlsson in 1906.
The church is kept open as much as possible. The people you probably saw sitting at the table behind the benches at the beginning of the room are all volunteers . Some of them know a great deal about the church and will most probably be only too pleased to help you if you have any questions.
If you should come when there is a baptism or wedding going on, you are welcome to come in and sit (they are public events), but please be respectful towards the participants, and choose a seat a bit away from the action.
Speaking of baptisms, please notice the tree with glass angels . At every baptism in the church, a glass figurine is placed on the tree, engraved with the name and date. The figurine is made of broken glass from the streets of Bethlehem. The figurines are collected one or two times a year.
Opening times : Mon-Fri 11:00-16:00, Tue to 20:00, Sat-Sun 10:00-16:30, Sun service is usually 10:00 or 11:00.
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