Maglarps Church, Sweden

The Demolition of the "New Church", Maglarp, Sweden

Built in 1908-09, the church at Maglarp was demolished in 2007.

Church demolition is a now a common phenomenon, but one that is often marked by social conflict. At minimum, many feel a sense of loss, even if understanding the need for demolition.

In Sweden, there had been demolitions of non conformist chapels, but the demolition of Maglarp was an event of some import, given the building belonged to the Church of Sweden.

At the time of its demolition, a Swedish archeologist-blogger and self described 'atheist' and 'lefty liberal,' offered these thoughts:

"I see little reason to mourn the passing of this 20th century pastiche of a Medieval church. Future archaeologists would of course prefer it if the thing were left standing as a ruin, but this would mean that generations of visitors to the site would run the risk of being hit by falling masonry.. What's more interesting is the possibility that this case will set a precendent, perhaps starting a new trend in the history of Swedish churches. If, as seems likely right now, the Swedish Church's membership continues to shrink, it will become increasingly hard to justify the upkeep of all those buildings. Meanwhile, Islam is flourishing as immigrant Muslims become increasingly well integrated and affluent. Half a century from now, I believe quite a number of those churches may be used as mosques. Muslims certainly don't mind, just look at the Hagia Sofia in Istanbul. I'd suggest that the first Church-of-Sweden church to be converted will be one similar to Maglarp's from 1909. An over-dimensioned early-20th century structure, probably located outside one of the country's main cities, near a post-war housing project like the one I live in. Rosengård? Hammarkullen? Rinkeby? It may happen soon, inch' Allah."-- Please Let Us Tear Down Our Church

The case of Maglarp's New Church had a public presence in discussion of culture and secularization in Sweden. The case also bears on legal descisions surrounding heritage designaiton. As discussed by Theodosios Tsivolas (in his Law and Religious Cultural Heritage in Europe),

"In 2005, the Court again granted permission for the demolition of the abandoned (since 1976) New Maglarp Church (Maglarps nya kyrka) due to lack of funds and accelerating maintenance costs. By way of contrast, in 2007, the Court found that the installation of a set of solar panels on the roof of the Flackebo church at Vasteras,, in central Sweden, violated the provisions of the Heritage Conservation Act as it devalued the structure’s cultural and historic significance."

The case of Maglarp's New Church demonstrates how closure and demolition of churches resonates through multiple cultural domains.


We Don't Go There Anymore
is a beautiful film by Carl Johan Engberg. As he writes, "It took 30 years of discussions before the decision finally was made to demolish Maglarps new church, in the south of Sweden. Engberg followed the process around this historical action for two years. The result became an 8 min short film about the physical deconstruction of a symbol for power, state, religion and faith. We Don't Go There Anymore is a reflection upon our time and Christianity's place in our modern society."

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Maglarp, Sweden