Stories from my travels around the world


Around Lake Mälaren, Sweden

The cathedral of Strängnäs


Strängnäs is a quiet little town in the beautiful lake area of the Mälaren, west of Stockholm. It's not really a tourist destination, but some parts of the city are nice to visit. The history of Strängnäs dates back to the Viking era. Strängnäs is actually one of Sweden's oldest towns and has played an important role as a church administrative centre in the middle Ages.

Unfortunately large parts of Strängnäs were destroyed by fire in 1871, but luckily some areas were spared. These are the parts of the town that are worth looking at. One area is around the old windmill, and the other is the cathedral. Around the windmill and the cathedral you can still find some of the old houses.

There is a little harbour in Strängnäs that gives the city a nice atmosphere. I've only done a quick visit to the city, but I did spend some time in the cathedral, and that is what this page will be about

The gate

The Gate
The gate

I wanted to take a nice picture of the cathedral, but that was almost impossible to do. There were either big trees in the way, houses, or I had to take a picture against the sunlight. Hahaha, so instead I give you this photo of the entrance towards the cathedral :-) In the previous photo you can see a little bit of the cathedral tower though!

Strängnäs Cathedral

The cathedral was built in 1280 on a beautiful spot, on a hill, towering over the city of Strängnäs. Strängnäs got its city rights in the same year, which makes it one of Sweden's oldest towns. In the Middle Ages Strängnäs was among the country's most important towns and the Bishop was the King's representative.

The cathedral knows a lot of Swedish history; and several Swedish kings are buried here. On nice fact, hahaha, that not even all Swedes know, is that on June 6th 1523 Gustav Vasa was elected king of Sweden at Strängnäs Cathedral. This day has still a special meaning because today this day is celebrated as Sweden's National Day.

Strängnäs Cathedral
Strängnäs Cathedral

The high altar from 1490

The high altar in Strängnäs Cathedral
The high altar from 1490

Let's take a closer look at the inside of the cathedral. One of the most impressive and beautiful things in the cathedral most be the reredos (high altar cabinet). It dates back to the 1490's and it was a made in Brussels. It was given to the Cathedral by Bishop Kort Rogge. It is one of Europe's biggest 'reredos'. If you click on the picture you can see it a little bit better, but the altar is made as a cabinet with panels / doors that can be closed. When it is opened you can see the "The story of the Passion" in seven large and several small scenes.

Another reredos

Strängnäs Cathedral

Very close to the high altar (see previous tip) on the right side of the church you can see this altar. Like the high altar this one also dates back to the 1490's, was a made in Brussels and was given to the Cathedral by Bishop Kort Rogge. The picture you see is a small detail of the reredos. Both of these altars are great to see, with so many details!

Monument to Princess Isabella

Monument to Princess Isabella
Monument to Princess Isabella

This is the monument to Princess Isabella in the Cathedral of Strängnäs. The monument was designed in 1580 by Willem Boy.

Isabella was the daughter of King Johan III and died in Gripsholm in 1566. Gripsholm is a castle not that far from Strängnäs and you can read more about this castle on my Gripsholm page.

The pulpit

The pulpit, Strängnäs Cathedral
The pulpit

This is the pulpit in Strängnäs cathedral. The pulpit dates back to 1789 and is in Gustavian style and was made by the royal sculpturer P. Ljung.

Coat of arms

This is a coat of arms hanging on the wall in the cathedral. This is just one of them that I saw in the Strängnäs Cathedral. This is not unique though, I've seen similar in many of the churches in Sweden that I've visited so far.

Coat of Arms, Strängnäs Cathedral
Coat of Arms

Karl IX crown, sceptre and apple

Karl IX crown
Karl IX crown

In a little chamber on the left side of the church there is a little 'treasure room'. Here you can see all precious objects, like the one you can see in this photo : the crown of Karl IX. The crown you can see here, and also the sceptre and the apple were made specially made in 1611 for the funeral of Karl IX. When he died in 1612 they were put in his coffin. They were also used at the funeral of Kristina in 1626. The crown, sceptre and apple are all made of gold, black and white enamel, crystal and pearls. The crown was manufactured by Antonius Groth and the sceptre and apple by Peter Kempe.

Getting to Strängnäs


Strängnäs is not that very far from Stockholm. It is about 85 kilometres west of Stockholm, and about an hour drive.

When you go to Strängnäs don't forget to visit the picturesque village of Mariefred, close to Strängnäs, with its beautiful Gripsholm castle.

Lake Mälaren Area

Lake Mälaren
Around Lake Mälaren

Area: The Lake Mälaren and the close area around it.

Mälaren is the third in size lake in Sweden. It has a climate quiet different compared to other close by areas. It is more humid and warmer in the summer, but not as cold in the winter. This has created a specific flora and also a special fauna. Several species of flowers and trees only grow around Lake Mälaren and in the south of Sweden. The mistletoe for instance is rather rare in Sweden but we can see dozens of them from our window.

Many fortifications and castles have been built around the lake. You can for instance visit 5 Royal Castles by boat on a 6-hour trip roundtrip from Stockholm. This building of fortification and permanent settlements began early, around 5000 BC, and there are many fort hills and archeologically sites around.

Everyone has probably heard about the Vikings, and you can still find lots about them in this area. I live only a 10 minutes walk from a very important Viking monument: The Sigurdsristningen. Being so close to a site like this makes me feel in touch with this part of Swedish history and has made me fascinated by the early history of Sweden. Around Lake Mälaren there are many spots where you can find signs of early culture, like in Birka and Sigtuna. Along the roads you can see a lot of Runic Stones.

Click on the map to go to the destination pages.

Interesting points to see in the area are:

  • Anundshög: old burial mounds from Viking Age.
  • Birka: ruins from old capital city of Sweden.
  • Mariefred with Gripsholm Castle. A picturesque village and a beautiful castle. In the castle is also the Swedish National Portrait Collection.
  • Sigtuna: old city with lots of historical background.
  • Sko Kloster: one of the most popular castles with a huge collections of painting, furniture and arms. The latter is one of the largest in Europe.
  • Sundby with Sundyholms Castle and the famous stone carvings from the time of the Vikings: Sigurdsristningen.
  • Eskilstuna: not a real tourist destination, but it has some nice places. My favourite of all is the Fors Kyrka (Fors Church). Also worth visiting is the Klosterkyrka, sculpture 'Hand of God' by Miles, the historic area of "Rademachersmedjorna" and the museum "Faktorimuseet".
  • Taxinge slott: Get a taste of the typical Swedish Christmas celebrations at the yearly Christmas market at Taxinge Slott.
  • Tidö slott: A beautiful castle with a toy museum.
  • Ängsö Castle A haunted castle from the 15th century and one if the many smaller castles in this area.
  • Strängnäs: one of Sweden's oldest towns. The highlight of this city is its beautiful cathedral.
  • Västerås: is one of the top 10 cities of Sweden. Suggestions: visit the park (Djäkneberget), interesting for the many boulders with inscriptions. The old part of town with historical houses at Kyrkbacken and the Cathedral.
  • Örebro: is an university city and the 7th largest city in Sweden. Places to see are castle from the 13th century and Wadköping, which is the old town and now open air museum.