New Cathedral Centre in Växjö

The History of the Cathedral Centre

From Guardhouse to Cathedral Centre

In the Cathedral Centre we find ourselves in one of the oldest places in the history of Växjö, the Cathedral.  The Sigfrid legend, the diocese and its bishops have contributed to the transformation of medieval ‘Wexio’ into the modern city of Växjö that we knowDomkyrkan i forntiden today.

The history begins as far back as the 11th century when a wooden church was built beside the northern shore of Lake Växjö.  In the middle of the 12th century the Diocese of Växjö was formed and the wooden church was replaced by a stone cathedral.  Guldsmedsbäcken (Goldsmith’s Brook) ran through the city of Växjö, forming the boundary between the church land and the rest of the city.

In the 13th century the stone church was extended.  A farmyard was added on the north side of the church and the remains of the farm well can be found on the spot which is today the Cathedral Centre’s Lilla torg (Little Square).  Forges and ovens in the area of the farm’s workshop were located approximately where the residential property known as Strykjärnet stands today.  [‘Strykjärnet’ translates as ‘The Iron’, as used for pressing clothes after washing.]

Pilgrim badgeIn the 15th century the cathedral was rebuilt on gothic lines with high vaults and large windows.  The area around the cathedral was developed into a place of pilgrimage and a new half-timbered house with stone cellars was built as a facility for [lit: ‘to represent’] the church.  There were probably also shops where pilgrim badges and other necessaries were sold.  The pilgrim badge found during the excavation for the foundations of the cathedral centre dates from that time.

In the 16th century the road from the east into Växjö was constructed.  The cathedral and the surrounding buildings were burnt down by Danish soldiers in the 1570s, but the restoration of the cathedral and buildings was carried out immediately and the cathedral was ready for use again by 1577.

At the beginning of the 17th century a school was built on the plot and in 1690 it was decided that a new grammar school should be built by the old school building.  The house built in the 16th century was demolished to make room for the grammar school.  The building should have been completed quite quickly but, due to a combination of war, failed crops, insufficient finance and nepotism it took 30 years.  The grammar school building, or as we say today, ‘The Carolinian House’ (Karolinerhuset)[1], was not ready until 1715.  When the new building was brought into use, the old school building was demolished.

The Carolinian House had no heating whatsoever and the 90 to 150 pupils who had their lessons in the big school hall at the right end of the building  had to warm their quill pens between their hands so that the ink would not freeze.  On the upper floor there were two auditoria, the bigger one at the right end of the building – this is now the Tegnér Room.  In the attic an anatomy room was fitted out where Carl von Linné later gave his first lessons in anatomy.

When lightning struck the cathedral in May 1740 a large part of the cathedral and and parts of the Carolinian House were destroyed.  The repair of the cathedral took a long time and the Carolinian House had to be used for church services.

During the 19th century substantial renovations were carried out both to the interior and exterior of the cathedral.  The Carolinian House had over time become too cramped and out of date, so in 1859 the school was moved to a newer building on Norrtull.  The old Carolinian House was renovated, among other things being equipped with heating, using tile ovens on the lower floor, and it began to be used as a library.  The double doors in the entrance to the Carolinian House derive from that renovation as well as the curved staircase in the hall.  Between 1954 and 1975 the library was a so-called diocesan and community library which was a cross between between a research library and a public library.

From 1971 to 2000 the house functioned as a meeting place for the cathedral chapter, and as offices for the bishop and diocesan secretary.  In 2006 the Carolinian House, being close by the cathedral, was bought by the congregation of Växjö Cathedral to Domkyrkocentrumbecome an important venue for parish activities.  The renovation took about 9 years, during which period the cathedral parish was merged into Växjö Pastorate [analogous to a United Benefice].

The Cathedral Centre was ready in the summer of 2015 and now provides a meeting place for all the parishes in the pastorate.

This article was published in Swedish on the Växjö diocesan web site.  Translation: Michael Nunn

23 November 2015

[1] The word ‘Karoliner’, or ‘Carolinian’ relates to the period of the reigns of Karl X, XI and XII, from 1654 to 1718.