Try saying “Skogskyrkogården.” Go on, try it. I’ve tried to say it at least 20 times, with my special Swedish speaking friend pronouncing it, all in the hope that I would actually hear the subtle difference between what I’m saying and what he’s saying. I still don’t think I’m saying it right, “skoogs-kierko-gawrden.” It’s a good thing that one doesn’t need to know how to say it in order to go there.
Skogskyrkogården, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, making it one of the few cultural heritage sites from the twentieth century. Created by Gunnar Asplund and Sigrund Lewerentz between 1914 and 1940, its design has had a great influence on the design of cemeteries all over the world. Setting a cemetery in natural parkland and without “grave mounds” was unique for the time. More than 90,000 graves and 5 chapels on over 100 acres make up this sprawling site. The day I decided to visit, the skies were overcast with occasional showers; seemed like the perfect day to visit a cemetery.
In the distance as we made our way down the lined tree lined street that was the entrance, a huge granite cross stood out against the sky. Erected in 1940, the cross is not meant to depict the usual symbol of the Christian faith, but is a direct representation of the cross that accompanied all death notices at the time. Whatever it representation, its imposing presence seemed to bring about feelings of tranquility and meditation. The entire cemetery was designed to create this emotional involvement; to enhance the visitor’s experience.
The processional routes leading to the chapels create a suitable mood for mourners. When walking along the beautiful Seven Springs Way, it gets darker and darker, the closer you get to the Chapel of Resurrection. And, even though you know you’re getting closer it feels like the door to the chapel remains a long way off. The steps up to the meditation grove gradually taper off as you get near the top so as not to tire the visitor.
Strolling around the landscape and looking at a combination of art, architecture, and nature, I couldn’t help but feel reverence for its natural beauty, serenity, and as a place for deep contemplation.
Skogskyrkogården is located a 15 minute ride on the Metro (aka Tunnelbana) from T-Centralen (The Central Subway/Train station) on the Farsta Strand bound Green Line. Public tours are available during the summer season, for more information contact the visitors center at +46-8-508-301-58