The Woodland Crematorium

Chapel of the Holy Cross. Photo: Susanne Hallmann

The Woodland Crematorium and its three chapels: Faith, Hope and the Holy Cross.

During the 20th century, the pagan practice of cremation started to gain greater acceptance and so, in the mid-1930s, Stockholm’s Cemetery Committee decided to build a crematorium with three chapels. The idea was that Asplund and Lewerentz would work together on the project, but Lewerentz was sidelined and the commission went only to Asplund.

The Woodland Crematorium. Photo: Susanne Hallmann.

The three chapels were named Faith, Hope and the Holy Cross. Completed in 1940, the whole facility communicates intimately with the magnificent open landscape of the entrance to the cemetery.

Thoughtful functionalism

At the time, functionalism was breaking through in a major way, as can clearly be seen in the architecture of the crematorium. It is flexible and practical, but at the same time it is very thoughtful, as befits an empathetic man like Asplund.

In order to allow funerals to be held undisturbed in all three chapels, the architect placed small gardens and waiting rooms between the chapels. From the waiting rooms, mourners look out through the doors and onto the rolling landscape. There is a complete lack of sharp corners throughout, giving an embracing and gentle feel. This gentleness echoes the open, pastoral landscape created in the 1930s. Giving the chapels and other buildings different heights emphasises the rolling slopes down towards the nearby columbariums, where urns are placed, and the main entrance.

The Chapel of Faith. Photo: Susanne Hallmann.

The chapel interiors put the focus on the catafalque bearing the coffin, placed centrally in the room. Asplund had an inlaid stone floor placed in front of the pews for the chief mourners, alongside the catafalque. The idea was that the mourners, in their moment of sorrow, would have something to fix their gaze on.

The Artists

Resurrection. Photo: Ingrid Johansson.

The chapel doors are decorated with bronze reliefs by Bror Hjort. In the portico to the Chapel of the Holy Cross stands the sculpture Resurrection by John Lundqvist. He also made the gilded figure of Christ on the crucifix inside the chapel. The chapel’s large fresco Life—Death—Life was created by Sven Xet Erixson.

The Chapel of Hope is decorated with a marble mosaic by Otte Sköld, who also created the enamel altar crucifix. Ivar Johnsson was the man behind the stucco work in the Chapel of Faith and the onyx altar crucifix.

Gunnar Asplund died in 1940 and his urn is buried in one of the columbariums next to the Chapel of Faith. A simple memorial stone bears the inscription: “His work lives on”.

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