The German Church and the Stockholm’s German Connection

The Hanseatic League, an early version of the European Common Market, was set up in the 14th and 14th century as a commercial and defensive confederation of merchant guilds and their market towns. It began as a collective of northern German towns in the 1100s and grew and grew later on.

The league grew to protect the economic interests of businessmen as well as their diplomatic rights while doing trade in other cities around the route. These cities had their own legal system as well as their own military for protection, while not a country on their own they were a sort of fledgling international trade organisation (with military teeth). The league began in the city of Lubeck, in 1159.

Lubeck became the base from which trade between East and West Europe grew and before long German traders could be found all along the routes of cities in the Hanseatic League, including Gdansk (Danzig), Hamburg, Bergen and Brugge.

Key cities with the Hanseatic League (Source)

Along the route up the Baltic sea is Stockholm, specifically Gamla Stan in Stockholm. So soon after the founding of Gamla Stan, the city soon had a small expatriate community of German traders. The traders set up a community called the Guild of St Gertrude after the German saint, Gertrude of Nivelles.

The German community integrated very deeply with the local community and with their elevated position as traders were able to get in the know with the royal family and major players in Medieval Swedish society. They based most of their activities in their headqaurters in Gamla Stan and invited Swedish royalty to events, going so far even to electing the king to be a senior member of the guild.

Then came the Lutheran Reformation. Now religion had a new and elevated place in society again. The Swedish led by Gustav Vasa and the German traders from Lubeck had a common cause as Protestants and in 1558 Gustav Vasa permitted the German traders to convert their guild headquarters into a parish church with their own German priest brought in from their homeland. This was both a religious but also political move to cement the Lutheran nature of the new Swedish nation and to strengthen bonds with other Lutheran nations.

This Church was to the the only other church on Gamla Stan, apart from the Storkyrkan.

It is apparent, upon stepping in, that the church is Germanic and not Swedish. The entrance gate has a German prayer which translates as “Fear God! Honor the King!”

The exterior of the church is designed in a neogothic style

While the interior is baroque with large stained glass windows depicting the German countryside and lifestyle.



The German traders, with their high positions of power were not just traders, some ended up marrying into the royal family and assimilated so well into Swedish society there was no need for a special guild or church. Many lines of the royal families in Sweden have german origin, other famous Swedes of the era like architect Nicodemus Tessin, painter Albertus Pictor, soldier Rutger von Ascheburg and writer Sophia Brenner.

By the 1800s, the church had a congregation of 113. Most of the parishioners have moved out of Gamla Stan (seeing as the old town is now more a tourist site than an actual residential zone) and the church has a spread out congregation of 2000 people with services in German still conducted every weekend.

The German link with Sweden is still very strong there are today some 50,000 Germans in Sweden (and these did not come as refugees but mostly as economic migrants), many Swedes today have German ancestry too. More in a long line of German-Swedish relations that goes back centuries.



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