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An unexpected UNESCO World Heritage site
As a UNESCO World Heritage site spotter, I simply had to visit Skogskyrkogården. Unlike many other UNESCO cultural properties, however, this is not a site that will blow you away. Its charms are subtle, with its minimalist buildings, discrete gravestones and deliberate absence of great monuments.
We were there too early in the summer to take a public guided tour (SEK 100 -- free for holders of the Stockholm Card), which take place every Sunday at 10:30 a.m. from July-September. However, much of the charm of cemeteries is being able to walk around aimlessly in them.
Our favourite sections were those where the gravestones were seamlessly integrated into the landscape, giving us the impression we were in a forest rather than in a cemetery.
Most famous Swedes (at least those we knew of) are buried in the Northern Cemetery (Norra begravningsplatsen) across town, but you will find the grave of screen legend Greta Garbo near the Woodland Chapel (Skogskapellet).
The Visitors' Centre is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sundays in May and September and daily from June to August. Admission is free and the site never closes.
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The Woodland Cemetery - UNESCO World Heritage Site
Skogskyrkogården, translated as the Woodland Cemetery, is a cemetery in the souther part of Stockholm. It was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994, which is why I ended up visiting it, as I like to visit UNESCO Sites when I can. Gunnar Asplund and Sigurd Lewerentz won a competition in 1915 to design Stockholm’s new cemetery, which was finally finished in 1920. As a woodland cemetery, it completely incorporates the natural landscape and trees into the design. This creates a very calm, almost surreal effect while walking through the graves or seeing the sun streaming through the tall trees. There are several chapels on the premises as well. Be sure to check out the Woodland Chapel (the first chapel at the cemetery), with it’s unique skull keyhole. Greta Garbo is buried here, as well as several other notable Swedes.
There is a visitors centre and a café. There is a visitors guide available in 6 languages. Open all year round. Free. Visitors centre May-Aug noon-5pm
Skogskyrkogården is a cemetary in the southern part of Stockholm and listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Two young architects - Gunnar Asplund and Sigurd Lewerentz - created this Stockholm cemetery between 1919 and 1940 on the site of former gravel pits, overgrown with pine trees. The purpose of the design was to blend in the vegetation with architectural elements.
Since I heard about this place I have been intruiged to visit, curious about how it looked and why this cemetary was put on the Unesco list. According to the World Heritage Committee: "Skogskyrkogården is an outstanding example of how architecture and landscaping from our century combine to make a cemetery. This creation has had a great influence on the design of cemeteries all over the world."
And undoubtedly all this is true. But the place could not charm me as much as I hoped. Parts of the cemetary looked nice, especially the woodland part, but the architecture was just not my cup of tea. The strict lines, the cold look, it just couldn't charm me and the disappointment about this Unesco site was the thought that took over during my visit. The only thing that did intruige me was the statue located at the Chapel of the Holy Cross (see photos).
It feels a bit weird to have my grandparents buried in a World Heritage but there you go. The "Forest Cemetary" really is something special not just for "morbid tourists" looking for famous graves. For a start off it is huge and if you plan to visit a special grave, you're better off to look it up before just assuming that the Skogskyrkogården underground stop will be your closest stop! Secondly, it really is a forest and as you walk around amongst the pines, all of a sudden a chapel will appear, then some more graves beneath the trees, then a lawn and then some more traditional grave areas. It is all very cared for though, and not at all wild like Pere-Lachaise. Driveways run through it and because of its size, there are even bus stops here and there, which take you to and from the underground at weekends only (see second picture). To be ctd.
- Arts and Culture
- Religious Travel
the Woodland Cemetary
This cemetary is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it has been the most unusual one for me so far!
Let me first share the official brief description of the UNESCO committee with you:
"This Stockholm cemetery was created between 1917 and 1920 by two young architects, Asplund and Lewerentz, on the site of former gravel pits overgrown with pine trees. The design blends vegetation and architectural elements, taking advantage of irregularities in the site to create a landscape that is finely adapted to its function. It has had a profound influence in many countries of the world." (quoted from the official UNESCO website)
Well, when we arrived there, we were not really impressed: it was a park, a forest, a cross and some buildings from the beginning of the 20th century.... hmmm, what is it that makes it so special? I guess you have to read a little about it, learn about the history, the contest of architects and why these two won it and the like.
The more I think about it, the better I like it! The link I provided is a great link with a couple of 360° views of this cemetary to give you an idea of what to expect.
Skogskyrkogården, the woodland cemetery (WH)
The great cemetery Skogskyrkogården - the woodland cemetery in south Stockholm.
It was listed as World Heritage in 1994.
Gunnar Asplund and Sigurd Lewerentz created this cemetery in an architect competition in 1914, in which the proposal was called "Tallum". The cemetery was outbuilt in pace with the need until 1940.
There are several chapels and other constructions to visit: Crematory building, the Woodland Chapel, The Resurrection Chapel, The Groves of Meditation and Remembrance, the big cross, the landscaping, the burial ground.
Skogskyrkogården, the woodland cemetery (WH) (8)
The Wood Chapel is lying a bit south from the Holy Cross Chapel. It is "deep in the wood", behind a entry gate.
This small chapel was designed by Gunnar Asplund, one of the architects of the cemetary.
- Religious Travel
Skogskyrkogården, the woodland cemetery (WH) (7)
This chapel - The chapel of Resureccion - is in the south part of the cemetary. As most of the chapels in the cemetery it is lying between the pine trees and you will detect it just when getting closer, unless you enter the long narrow walk coming from north that ends up at the chapel.
Make a walk around the chapel to look at the rear part. There is a big window with supporting piles. The only visible inlet of light.
- Religious Travel
Skogskyrkogården, the woodland cemetery (WH) (4)
The forming of this cemetary with thoughts of an architectural view, created a new way of building cemeteries. The Woodland cemetery has been an example for landscaping of church yards all over the world.
1994 it was listed as a World Heritage.
Skogskyrkogården, the woodland cemetery (WH) (6)
In this view that is taken towards the entry, you can see the part of the Chapel of the Holy Cross, The Holy Cross and in the back ground the entry to the cemetery.
Skogskyrkogården, the woodland cemetery (WH) (5)
The first view you will get when you enter the cemetery is the huge stone cross in front of the Chapel of the Holy Cross.
- Religious Travel
Skogskyrkogården, the woodland cemetery (WH) (3)
The number of graves in this waste cemetary is around 50,000. There are also several memory groves where the ashes of people are put to rest.
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