Alnö is an island just outside the town where I live, and there is a really amazing church with medieval paintings inside. But for some reason, I have never visited the church before. Last year there was a small medieval event with a market I attended, and then I finally took the chance to look inside.
Isn’t it funny, how we dream about going to faraway and amazing places to look at old things? But the viking age runestone and medieval church and ruins I drive by regularly fade into the background of everyday life. Taken for granted and maybe not appreciated as they could be.
Anyway, I wanted to share my visit with you in this blog post, so you also may see all the beautiful paintings and sculptures inside the church. A taste of a faraway and old piece of art, but close for me. Also, I tried to take photos of all the amazing clothing in the paintings still visible, because I am a historical garments nerd…
The paintings mostly depicted different saints and their life and martyrdom, but with an interesting mix of contemporary fashion. This is very common in religious art from the medieval time period; historical scenes made alive with clothing and accessory from the time they were painted. This makes them into an interesting source for understanding and recreating clothing items, but there might be traps too; some saints were depicted in out of date-styles, as well as angels often wearing “some kind of draped clothing” instead of real clothes.
Most female saints were also virgins and therefore represented in art as young fashionable women with their hair worn loose. Therefore, if you want to work with religious paintings as a source for your planned historical outfit, it is wise to take this into consideration and look for more sources of clothing, as well as study the history of a saint and how they were represented. There are many interesting books in art history on the subject, but a quick walkthrough google and wiki are a great start too!
The oldest part of the church was built sometime in the 12th century, but the wall paintings, the altarpiece and the crucifix were made in the 15th century.
Of course, I wanted to match the church art, wearing my 15th c outfit for the market weekend! The church is open during the summer and I also had the opportunity to get a short guided tour when I visited. Some parts of the church are more modern, and I really adore the mix of the very old church with its massive stone walls, and later added decorations, interiors and attributes which shows how people continued to build and care for the building for a really long time.
Outside the churchyard we put up our tents and had a relaxed weekend selling medieval goods, talking to visitors and enjoying the cosy setting.