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Att bygga en kyrka i trä

Journal article
Authors Gunnar Almevik
Karl-Magnus Melin
Published in Bebyggelseshistorisk tidskrift
Issue 74
Pages 48-68
ISSN 0349-2834
Publication year 2017
Published at Department of Conservation
Pages 48-68
Language sv
Keywords Reconstruction, corner timber building, medieval church, wooden architecture, craft research, building history
Subject categories Archaeology, medieval, Technology and culture


The medieval corner-joint timber church at Södra Råda in Sweden was destroyed by arson in 2001. The building, which dated from the early 14th century, was one of the few extant cornerjoint churches in Scandinavia from this period. The National Heritage Board, which owned the church, began a complete reconstruction of the building “as a pedagogical example to enhance craft practice and historical knowledge of medieval churches”. The reconstruction began in 2006 and is not yet complete. The article details and analyses the results from a decade of building reconstruction. The aim is to shed light on the building processes and carpentry techniques that were used to build a corner-joint church in the early 14th century. The research focuses on historical techniques, materials and tools. How many trees were used and what was their quality? How much material and labour were expended on various parts of the timber structure? The project has also provided opportunities to discuss the construction context of the original building. Who built the church? What knowledge and skills did they have? How was the building conceptualised and how was this information communicated? How were people and materials organised during the building process? The reconstruction is both an arena and a method of research. The research process is shaped by a dialogue between the interpretation of source material and reconstruction practices. The source material comprises extant Swedish medieval timber buildings; tools and building components in museum collections; and written sources and contemporaneous illustrations of buildings and builders. Our empirical study follows a paradigm of clues, making the best of situations where source material is scarce, and its results yield hypotheses for craft-based reconstructive experiments. The reconstruction is designed as a hypothesis-driven deductive experiment, yet enactment sometimes provides unexpected affordances. Enactment through craftwork, in an environment similar to that experienced by medieval workers, without modern equipment or tools, reveals what is possible, impossible, labour-intensive, difficult or feasible when building a corner-joint church such as that at Södra Råda. The research has revealed characteristics of medieval carpentry and building techniques. The results also allow insight into the extensive labour that was required to obtain and prepare the various timber building materials. The roofing: rafters, boards and shingles were cut using cumbersome, labour-intensive methods. Most of the labour, two-thirds of the total, was expended on the roof. Logs for the walls were hewn into timbers with a rectangular cross section and sharp edges. These timbers meet end to end, forming a flush, ninety-degree angle at the corners of the building. This characteristic, common to all medieval corner-joint churches in Sweden, contrasts with secular timber buildings of the same date, which were built of logs with a rounded profile. At Södra Råda, the use of sharp-edged timbers up to 11 metres long calls for very skilled carpentry. Yet this part of the work has consumed a relatively small amount of construction time.

Page Manager: Webmaster|Last update: 9/11/2012

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