View Full Version : Sitka

08-06-04, 18:34
The altarpiece painted for the Sitka Lutheran Church in mid-19th century by Baron von Godenhjelm, a Swedish Finn working under the patronage of the Russian Tzar, has been restored in Finland.

It now is being exhibitied at the Karpeles Manuscript museum in Tacoma WA until the end of June when it moves to the Nordic Heritage Museum in Seattel WA. Then it migrates home to Sitka for an exhibit. Where it will find a permanent home is still unknown.

Maria Enckell, who discovered the painting languishing in Sitka's Russian Orthodox church and struggled 12 years to document its heritage, is hoping the ELCA would establish a museum for the remaining bits of heritage from its congregations of every ethnicity. The painting was the first such Protestant art on the west coast of the Americas (B. Magnusson, PhD). A home in North America would be very appropriate.

We went to its opening last Sunday in Tacoma, and found the exhibit VERY informative. The committee who put together the exhibit of Finnish objects from the period displayed some exquisite and rare objects, including a baby cradle made from pine planks salvaged when the Oravais "old" church was torn down in the 1800's. It had been built in the mid-1700's.

If you can't attend one of the exhibits, the information and images are included in an informative catalogue in full-color called Transformations, available from SFHS, and the Nordic Heritage Museum. It was put together by Maria Enckell, and Brian Magnusson.

08-06-04, 20:35
Debbie S. emailed this picture of the altarpiece...

21-06-04, 21:36
I am finally posting a photo of the cradle mentioned by Syrene, that is part of the exhibition at the Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum in Tacoma through this Sunday, June 27, 2004. Address of the facility is: 407 S. G Street, Tacoma. Admission is free.

There is one more lecture remaining, which is to be held on Thursday, June 24 at 7 PM, by Professor Andrew Nestingen, Scandinavian Studies, University of Washington. "Inventing Literature in Nineteenth Century Finland." If you are in the area and able to attend on Thursday, I encourage you to do so.

The altarpiece will move to Seattle next week, with an Opening Day reception to be held on July 1, and a Church Service on August 1, at the Nordic Heritage Museum.

This "bottomless" cradle is actually a wonderful example of 18th century ingenuity. The bottom consisted of soft branches and mosses, which could easily be discarded when soiled.
Even a mundane object like a baby cradle can have connections to the distant past. In this case, the cradle is fashioned from fir boards retrieved from the old medieval church in Oravais when it was torn down in the late 18th century. In other words, the father who created this cradle sought not only to insure his offspring of physical comfort but to give his infant spiritual security as well. The symbolic implications are legend.

22-06-04, 00:16
Thanks, Debbie,
The painting on the wooden cradle was probably done by a skilled kurbits painter. Has anyone identified its style? I got to thinking that maybe everyone thinks of painted flower patterns as either Dal- or Rosmålning, the Swedish name for it, or Rosmaling, the Norwegian name. Actually, the talented artists who travelled Finland had a slightly different style, with slightly different color combinations. There are two books with excellent photos published in I think Vasa. The author carried on his mother's collection of wooden painted furniture, and eventually created books about the pieces. Very interesting.

A-M Löfdahl
22-06-04, 18:56
Who owns the cradle now?
Is there more info available.....???

22-06-04, 19:13
SFHS member Roger Gustafson brought the cradle and other artifacts to the Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum for us to use, to compliment the exhibit. I believe some items belong to him, or his various family members in Washington. I will see him on Thursday, 6/24, and I'll ask him then. I know that his family hails from Oravais.


A-M Löfdahl
22-06-04, 19:20
I don´t know Roger but I know his sisters family and the relatives in Oravais! Very interesting!