The first church of Stigtomta (Södermanland, Sweden) was built in the 13th century (possibly even earlier). Later rebuilt, re-fashioned and embellished in many ways, it now manifests a complex account of local people’s lives and beliefs since mediaeval times. In 2010, the parish wanted to continue the story by adding a contemporary art piece. A group of students in post-grad education, conducted by professor Tom Sandqvist, were invited to submit suggestions. Our resulting works were exhibited in the church over a period of time, and finally a sculpture by Ann Fransson was acquired. This is the proposal I put forward (never realized).
Expanding the church
This old country church overflows with tokens of remembrance, hope and piety. Sitting alone at the back of an aisle, I couldn’t help but wonder what an outsider like myself could bring into the sacred space; feeling that any appendage would appear like excessive chitchat, interfering into sincere dialogue… On the other hand, the parish had expressed their sense of something missing. So, what could it be?
Space, perhaps; a little more space. Expanding by going deeper.
The cruciform floor plan of the church suggested an intervention be made in the very center. First, a number of ancient stone slabs covering the floor would have to be removed. Then a round hollow could be dug out, sloping by an even curve down to a centerpoint. The pit had to be quite shallow in order not to restrain free mobility for all visitors; I reckoned a maximum depth of five to seven centimeters on a two metres’ diameter would be ok. To replace the stones, I figured the circle coated with black mosaique tiles.
One of the most distinct features of the church is the altarpiece, painted in 1812 by Swedish artist Pehr Hörberg. It depicts Christ washing the feet of Peter, accompanied by the words Gloria in Excelsis Deo. This is the beginning of a Gregorian hymn known as the Greater Doxology, dating back to the very first centuries of Christianity. The next line goes Et in Terra Pax Hominibus Bonae Voluntatis… This I also wanted to fuse into the piece. The musical notation used in those days consisted of plain square signs, which conformed well to the technique of mosaic tiling.
Having arrived at this, I decided to make a model scaled 1:2.
I found a rare type of dark-coloured clay – and a pottery workshop where it could be fired – and started manufacturing hundreds of small black tiles – a few of them imprinted with a letter to compose the words. For the notation signs, I used mirror tiles. The floor coating would then reflect the altarpiece – literally – just as the hymn lines reflect each other; Glory to God in the highest / and on earth peace, goodwill to all people. The lettering was laid out in two arms spiralling out from the tile/note corresponding to the word Pax.