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Monday, February 1, 2016

Stockholm - Gamla Stan and Riddarholm Monastery

Date of visit: 17th October 2015

Gamla stan is a Swedish word means “The Old Town” where until 1980, is an officially “The Town between the Bridges”, a place that a tourist must visit whenever they are in town. Gamla stan consists primarily of the island called Stadsholmen which includes the surrounding islets Riddarholmen, Helgeandsholmen, and Stromsborg. The town dates back to the 13th century consists of medieval alleyways, cobbled streets and archaic architecture. North German architecture has had a strong influence in the Old Town's construction that makes you feel like walking in an old European city in ancient historic movie. Every moment that we captured that day turns out very nice due to blue sky and cold autumn weather, as reflected in below photo which has an old building, yellow leafs tree and cobbled pavement overlooking Riddarholmen islet in it.


The first building we encountered while walking towards Gamla Stan from the city hall

A visit to Stockholm would not be complete if not visited its Stortorget, i.e. the scenic large square in the centre of Gamla Stan, which is surrounded by an old merchants houses including the Stockholm Stock Exchange Building. The square was the site of the Stockholm Bloodbath, where Swedish noblemen were massacred by the Danish King Christian II in November, 1520 resulting revolt and civil war that led to the dissolution of the Kalmar Union and the subsequent election of King Gustav I.

Stortorget Square

Gamla Stam is a home to the Stockholm Cathedral, the Nobel Museum, the Riddarholm church and Sweden's baroque Royal Palace, built in the 18th century after the previous palace Tre Kronor was burned down. A statue of St. George and the Dragon (sculpted by Bernt Notke) can be found in the Stockholm Cathedral, while Riddarholmskyrkan is the royal burial church. Bollhustappan, a small courtyard at Slottsbacken behind Finska kyrkan, just south of the main approach to the Royal Palace, is a home to one of the smallest statues in Sweden, a little boy in wrought iron. The plaque just below the statue says its name "Jarnpojken" or the Iron Boy, created by Liss Eriksson in 1967. It's a pity that we did not able to find it. Anyway, I combine some background facts of Gamla Stan and Riddarholm Monastery in this entry and shall divided three separate entries to record our educational visit inside the Royal Palace.

Gamla Stan overlooking Stockholm city

From the middle of 19th to middle of 20th century, Gamla stan was considered a slum area, many of its historical buildings left in disrepair. Right after the World War 2, several blocks and five alleys were demolished for the enlargement of the Riksdag or Parliament house, seen in above photo. From the 1980s, however, it has become a tourist attraction as the charm of its medieval, Renaissance architecture and later additions have been valued by later generations


Sankt Nikolai kyrka, dated 1279

Before leaving Gamla Stan that day, we snapped some more photos at Slotssbacken, a street facing the eastern waterfront next to the Royal Palace. It was where Church of St. Nicholas (sankt Nikolai kyrka), most commonly known as Storkyrkan, means the Great Church being the oldest church in Gamla Stan is located. We bumped into a church representation who was circulating a pamphlet, the words of John extracted from the bible. He and I were sharing short moments discussing Jesus and Islam that pretty much annoyed Anne. She snapped my photo glazing over the surrounding before I had that serious talk that she dislike and I like it very much she managed to capture the above moment. Meanwhile, below photo was what I shared from the website which has full image of Riddarholm Monastery
Photo by Alexandru Babos as permitted to share in "wikipediacommons"

Riddarholmen is the historical nucleus of Stockholm with buildings dated from several eras. The oldest in the vicinity is Riddarholm Church, inaugurated around 13th century as a part of monastery. The monatery was founded by the Franciscan order around 1270 on land donated by King Magnus Ladulas. The king chose the church for his last resting place and was buried there after his death in 1290. King Magnus Ladulas was son on Birger Jarls who is thought to have founded Stockholm in the 1250's. King Birger Jarl resting statue is annexed to the City Hall, if you could refer back to one of the photo in my earlier entry about Stockholm City Hall. Riddarholm church became a royal burial site from 1634 and up to 1950. 


The congregation of Riddarholm Church was dissolved in 1807 and today the church is used only for burial and commemorative purposes. Swedish monarchs from Gustavus Adolphus (died in 1632 AD) to Gustaf V (died in 1950) are entombed here as can be seen in below photo that I accidently took before being warned by the church receptionist.  One of Swedish royal queem, Queen Christina is buried within St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, as well as the earlier monarchs Magnus III who died in 1290 and Charles VIII,  died in 1470. It has been discontinued as a royal burial place in favor of the Royal Cemetery that was built later on. Please take note that an entrance fee is chargeable at this place.



Riddarlhom Church is one of the oldest buildings in Stockholm, 745 years old, parts of it dating to the late 13th century, when it was built as a greyfriars monastery. After the Protestant Reformation, the monastery was closed and the building transformed into a Protestant church. A spire designed by Willem Boy was added during the reign of John III, but it was destroyed by a strike of lightning on July 28, 1835 after which it was replaced with the present cast iron spire.




Coats of arms of knights of the Order of the Seraphim are in the walls of the church. When a knight of the Order dies, his coat of arms is hung in the church and when the funeral takes place the church bells are rung constantly from 12:00 to 13:00. You may read some information about the place and how Gamla Stan became residence for the Swedish Royal family and Sweden's supreme legal institution. 


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