Luleå is home to two majestic churches which have both, in their own ways, put the city on the map. Because it is only fair to say that the two churches have played a pivotal role in the development of the city.
Let’s start at the beginning by looking at Nederluleå Church. This mighty creation was built in medieval times and opened its doors in 1492. The church is devoted to the apostle Peter and was opened by Archbishop Jacob Ulfsson on June 29, St. Peter’s Day.
When this church, which is now the city’s most popular destination amongst visitors, was built, the entire city of Luleå was constructed around the enormous structure. The church was the focal point for the entire region and church service attendance was mandated by law in all of Sweden – the great distances up north were no excuse. Consequently, smaller cottages were built around the church, in which guests coming from afar could stay during the church weekends. These cottages, that surround the church still to this day, were listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. This is the best preserved church town in all of Sweden and a unique place to visit.
It remained the city centre up until the 17th century, when land uplift following the recession of the inland ice caused the harbour, crucial for export of goods to southern Sweden, to become too shallow to use, which is why the city of Luleå was moved to its current location. The old location is now, for fairly obvious reasons, called Gammelstad (the Old Town) – and the church town has been preserved.
The church and the church town is still a lively place. It serves its purpose and is not just a destination for visitors. Weddings, church services and concerts are examples of activities still taking place in Nederluleå Church.
The church town is brimming with life. The church cottages are privately owned, handed down through families for generations. In summer, the church town comes alive and many people stay in the picturesque cottages.
For more information about the World Heritage Sites, activities and guided tours in the area – click here.
Luleå Cathedral, built in Neo-Gothic style, is the grandiose building that you can see towering over the houses of the city. It was built in the late 19th century and officially declared parish cathedral in 1904. The fact that this church is so young compared to other cathedrals is a consequence of the fires that plagued Luleå in the city’s beginnings. When the city was moved to its current location, a wooden church was built where the cathedral now stands but that building was lost to fire. Two previous churches in this location burned down. Third time lucky, thought those responsible and decided to go for a more fireproof construction. The cathedral has become an iconic Luleå landmark and is the most prominent feature of the cityscape. City planners and architects have always made sure that the church remains a towering feature, by avoiding high-rises which would dwarf the church tower.