Just outside Luleå, you’ll find the church village Gammelstad. This used to be where Luleå city centre was located right up to the 17th century, with red log cabins in a kind of organised chaos around one of Sweden’s most beautiful churches. It’s a unique place and something to preserve for future generations.
Red log cabins in a kind of organised chaos around one of northern Sweden’s most beautiful churches – this might not be a completely accurate picture of World Heritage Gammelstad, but that’s what it feels like when you walk around the ‘town’ alleyways. Everything is neatly painted in that classic Swedish red colour, a kind of Nordic dream in pine.
If you stroll around the church village in the company of the guide Christoffer Svensson Ehlin, it’s very easy to start yearning for a journey in time. It makes you want to have been here back in the days when church duty made farmers haul themselves to church and service every Sunday, with courtship and partying as a bonus. If the farmer lived ten kilometres away, attendance was expected every weekend, and twenty kilometres meant every other weekend and so on. The further away, the less church duty. This caused another problem: it just wasn’t possible to travel back and forth on a Sunday for many of those living in the parish. Instead, they were allowed to build a house on land owned by the church. Suddenly church villages emerged. The most well-preserved one is Gammelstad outside Luleå.