View Full Version : Poorman

Karen Norwillo
21-05-04, 01:52
Can anyone tell me the significance of the poorman statue outside most of the old Lutheran churches in Ostrabothnia? I saw many variations while there, some with a black shoe on one foot and white on the other, one with a pegleg and a shoe. I realize he is asking for alms for the poor, but how did the traditional statue begin? Also, why roosters on the church spire? Karen

21-05-04, 14:39
Karen, I can't respond to your statue question but 2 nights ago I had the tv on for background noise. The program "Millionaire" was on and one of the questions had to do with which animal was traditionally found on a weather vane. I don't know details but it mentioned the rooster as having some religious (Christian) connection.

I'd be curious if any of our sages have an explanation! :)

21-05-04, 16:17
As you probably already know, the Fattiggubbe or Poorman has a slot for coins in his outstretched hand or in his chest. The coins dropped into a large locked chest. The proceeds were doled out by the church to the parish poor.

The reasoning behind the personage is, I was told, that the injured veterans of the wars would have to beg, since they were not employable anymore. The white foot is the bandaged foot, or sometimes they have other marks painted or carved on them. Since Russia and Sweden had been battling on Finland's countryside for more than a century, the image of the ubiquitous begging soldier seemed an obvious choice.

However, I'm wondering about the soldiers who did NOT return. Their wife and family would be expected to leave the Soldattorp, his tiny house and plot of land contributed by farmowners as their share in providing for men for the king's army, as soon as it was apparent that the farming village had to get a different man to take the job of soldier. The new soldier's family then had priority.

21-05-04, 17:43
...there is an article in the June's article collection (http://sfhs.eget.net/wikijp.html) in Delphi - article number 36 "FATTIGGUBBEN"

21-05-04, 18:19
The photo was excellent. Several years ago, the Quarterly article on Fattiggubben included a drawing of Kronoby church's statue, made while Don researched in the genealogy society's collection "downtown" while I wandered the villlage trying to decide which wonderful view to paint. Love that town!

Alf Blomqvist
21-05-04, 21:31
Originally posted by syrene
Fattiggubben ...Kronoby...Syrene

Last year a new Fattiggubbe was made for Kronoby church and some time ago it also was painted. It's not known what happens to the old one...

Karen Norwillo
22-05-04, 00:51
Thank you to all who replied to my question. Now I know why some are depicted differently. I took photos of the ones in Esse, Vörå and several others. I also looked online and found the most common explanation for the rooster on the church spire was related to Peter's denial of Christ and the cock crowing. It was a papal decree a thousand years ago that all churches in Christendom have a rooster to call the people to worship and not to deny Christ. Later only found on Protestant churches. Maybe Kaj can confirm this. Karen

Kaj Granlund
22-05-04, 09:37
I cannot confirm the background. Doesn't seem too unlikly. It is an old tradition with the rooster. There was one in Esse too until the new church was built in 1770. Then the copper from that rooster was sold in an auction and used to doors for the owen in an nearby farm kitchen. The rooster stands in our tradition for to be awake an not to sleep as Christ returns. So it has to do with the denials of St. Peter.

The poorman in Esse is the second one. As we were to repaint him some years ago, we found that he originally was dressed in a blue swedish uniform. So we had him take his old clothes on. Instead of the previous black suite. I think there also must have been a hidden political statement in having a swedish dressed soldier outside the parish church. I think they wanted to say: "We will never be Russians."
It is also important to notice that the main part of these blue dressed men appeared outside the churches about 40-50 years after the war against the russians 1808 -1809. Did they after so many years realise the importance of those fighting for the freedom of a country? Or was it also a statement that in the time of a growing russification and nationalism to say: We have a great history closly connected with the swedish history.

There are also traditions with these offerings that go back to catholic time. You pay tridute to the parishchurch as you feel God helped you. That is why the text at these poormen often says something like: "Pay here cause the Lord has helped you" or "pay your promise to the Lord".
this was mainly as a woman overlived a childbirth, returning back safe from a journey and getting well.
Sometimes you can still get a bigger sum of money into these poormen, and then you understand that this sum is a promise to the Lord. We once got a gold ring. But this doesn't happen very often. The interest for them on the continent has grown and that also has had the non wanted effect that some of them are stolen. Probably for collectors.

At last a story told about the former poorman in Esse. He was huge, far more than two meters tall. The mainroad passed close to the church at that time. One man had been out drinking and had to pass that man. As he had far to much to drink he thaught he was brave and hit the poorman with the words:"Do something now if you can!" He went laughing away, but stumbled in his own legs and fell. As he finally got up he looked at the poorman and said: "So you ARE hitting back, too?"

23-05-04, 17:15
I remember reading in an interview with the architect Kaija Santaholma, who received much attention for her book ´Vaivaisukot´ (2001. ISBN: 951-664-078-8) a few years ago, that she cherished the idea that in certain respects the wooden figures have much in common with the figure heads of sailing ships. Unfortunately I have not read her book so I can't review her views in any detail, but taking in account the advantages of a discussion forum reaching many persons I would like to ask if the members of this list can name the carvers of the wooden figures they know from local history sources, literature etc and any possible connection to shipbuilding activities.

From the church villages of Sastmola, Sideby, Lappfjärd, Kristinestad and Närpes I know existing wooden sculptures only from Sideby and Lappfjärd ( http://sydaby.eget.net/eng/ch/poors.htm ). The figure at the bell tower in Sideby was purchased by the Sideby church from Johan Henrik Appelö in 1849. Johan Henrik Appelö b. 1801 is known to have been a husband at Appelö already from 1821 and he was probably engaged in shipbuilding activities because one of the main shipyards in Sideby was located just at Appelö where several sailing vessels were built.

To Kaija Santaholma's knowledge there have existed at least 148 wooden men-at-alms (two of them females) in Finland and 15 in Sweden.

Kaj Granlund
23-05-04, 17:29
I remember that I've read that many of those in Sweden orginate from Ostrobothnian tradition and carpenters. Exampel: There is one i Karlskrona and the one who did that came from Ostrabothnia to build ships for the swedish navy.

23-05-04, 20:12
There is still one existing in Solf too, just outside the church, and the most famous one in Sweden is called " Rosenbom" in Karlskrona.


June Pelo
24-05-04, 21:41
In the 1600s there were hundreds of fattiggubben standing outside the churches in Österbotten. Many of them were carved by skilled carpenters in the parishes - some of them built the old wooden churches in Finland. Over the years these figures were allowed to rot and decay, but in recent years there has been an effort made to restore them. A few years ago the "poorman" that stood outside the old Karleby church was stolen by vandals and later recovered and restored to its place outside the church door. Here's a picture of the poorman at Pörtom: http://www.qnet.fi/kajen/ptm/p216.htm

Here is the poorman at Esse church, dressed as a Swedish soldier from the 1808-09 war:

Here he is at beautiful Vörå church - way down at the bottom of the screen:


24-05-04, 23:23
This is howe Solf poormen looks like. Nice looking man isn´t he?
www.saunalahti.fi/~adso/Osterbottengardar/ svenska/b/kyrkor.htm-8k-

MVH Kerstin:)

24-05-04, 23:33
That was the wrong address. I hope this will be the right one

MVH Kerstin

24-05-04, 23:39
Wrong again!:) Maby it´s because it´s only half an hour to midnight. It´s time to:o

Karen Norwillo
25-05-04, 01:47
Thanks, June, for the links. I have real good photos I took of those churches. Esse was the church of my father's mother and Vörå the church of my mother's mother. Also Oravais, when her family moved. Finland was beautiful. Karen