Överluleå kyrka på sommaren.
Foto: Camilla Arvidsson

The church of Överluleå

Learn more about the church of Överluleå, the oldest of the churches in Boden.

The 17th of July 1831 the church was consecrated. She is wide and large, with solid walls and a huge vault – at this time it is built of white-washed bricks. The organ as well as the church-bell is missing. Many day-works, with a lot of privation had been closed. Those who were obliged to do day-works most often were peasants and they had to trust in wife and children that they could do the farming. There were many years of bad crops and famine.


As late as 700 years ago the trading ships carrying salt, iron and cloth, could sail as far as to the ’Bodenforsarna’; near today’s power station. These cataracts could even be reached by boats from the interior. Most likely was the oldest market of this district placed in the village of Heden, west from Boden. It is generally held that ’Gammelstad’, The Old town of Luleå, was the first church village and that this church of granite was built during the 1400th century. In the end of the 1700th century one began the discussions of a dividing of the parish of Luleå.  

The 8th of June 1826, the Swedish king Charles XIV Johan settled that the parish of Luleå should be divided into two parts ’Upper’ Luleå and ’Lower’ Luleå.. That the church should be built in the village of Boden but its name should be the same as the parish’s name – the church of Överluleå - ’Upper’ Luleå.

The diocese of Luleå

During the middle ages the northern part of Sweden belonged to the diocese of Uppsala. In 1647 the diocese of Härnösand was formed and it included all landscapes north of Dalarna (Dalecarlia) and Hälsingland in the south. The diocese of Luleå which was formed in 1904 comprises Västerbotten and Norrbotten and covers more than one third of Sweden.

Building history

The church was built during the years 1826 – 1831. There were two master builders: Olof Gustaf Alm from Boden and Israel Rönnberg from Piteå. The constructional drawing was made by the architect Jacob Wilhelm Gerss, after a draft from Erik Hollström, Sunderbyn. The church was consecrated in the 17th of July 1831.

The church

The church was built of stone: granite from Degerberget, 779 logs from the crown forest area, lime from Norra Prästholm (near Råneå) and wrought-iron from Selets bruk. 55.737 pieces of roofing shingles were needed and 54.580 brick stones. The façade is plastered. There are arched openings for the sound in the tower. The doorways and the window-openings are round arched (Norman arch), the doors are covered with copper. The cross on the tower is covered with copper, even so is the roof since 1993.

The exterior is, with the exception of the roof-covering, preserved in its original shaping.

It is a rectangular nave church and sanctuary at the eastern wall. From the beginning the church had three grandstands, pews from the east short side to the west short side and pews all along the walls. Here were seats for 2.240 visitors. Today here are seats for 800 visitors.  

The church has been restored 1877, 1894, 1931, 1952 and 1980.

The porch

The porch is the part of the church which is less transformed. It is still functioning as a gathering-place before and after services and ceremonies.

Cut-glass chandeliers

In the 1860th these cut-glass chandeliers were given to the church by three peasant’s families from two different villages outside Boden.

Almost 100 years later, when the congregation needed three more chandeliers for this 2nd row, they tried to find a similar to each so there should be 3 couples.

Heating device

In the year 1886 the church could afford to buy its first heating device, four stoves for coals and they were placed one in each corner. Before, during wintertime, the cantor had to come to the church in the very early morning and defrost the organ. In 1931 an electric heating was installed and finally during the autumn 1999 district heating was installed.  

Soldiers grandstand

The grandstand at east was during its last 30 years known as the soldiers grandstand. At the turn of the century Boden became a garrison town. The soldiers were under obligation to attend church and they were seated, all together, at the eastern grandstand. At the renovation in 1931 the northern grandstand was pulled down, you can still see the barrier because now a days it is put on the organ grandstand.

The crucifix

This crucifix is carved in pinewood by Tore Strindberg. When it’s delivered in springtime 1933, the crucifix is hanged between the two fore windows at the north longer wall and is moved to its present place in 1951.

The sanctuary

During 100 years the sanctuary was situated at the north longer wall. The pulpit was bricked high up in the apse and the altar was placed in front of the bricked foundation. This arrangement lead to that there wasn’t any use for an altar-piece.

At the restoration in 1931 the sanctuary was moved to the east short side.

The altarpiece, an oil painting, was painted by Harald Lindberg with the motif from the ’Sermon on the Mount’. On both sides there were screenings for vestry and vestment-room. The twelve apostles, carved by Bror Marklund, were placed upon these screenings.  

The floor is made by Orhtoceratite limestone from Jämtland.  

Twenty years later the sanctuary got a new design, which means that the altar-piece was moved to the church attic. The crucifix was put in its place. Now the twelve apostles flank the altar.

The motif of the altar carpet, a long-pile rug, symbolize the ’Garden of Eden’.

The sanctuary-carpet is woven in ’röllakan’ (weave with differently-coloured geometrical patterns) in 1995. The motif allude to ’The living stone’ (1 Peter 2:4- ).

The pulpit

In 1931 the pulpit is moved to the northeast corner. The dove above the pulpit is carved in wood by a local artist, Hjalmar Rönnbäck.

The altarpiece

1980 the latest renovation took place. A well known artist, Pär Andersson, received the task of deciding the colours for the pews, the inner walls and also to paint an altarpiece. The altarpiece runs along a predella, here with a painted grapevine.

The five golden frames contents from the left to the right:  

  1. Abraham prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac (Genesis 22).  
  2. Jonah and the big fish (Jonah 1-2; Matthew 12:40).  
  3. The resurrected Christ (Matthew 28; Marc 16; Luke 24 and John 20).
    He has been fighting a hard battle against the kingdom of the dead, the banner of victory is streaming in the wind and the dawning’s rose pink light is announcing an entirely new morning in the world.  
  4. Samson and the city gate of Gaza (Judges 16:3).  
  5. Moses and the uplifted serpent in the desert – the snake bitten Israelites were saved by looking at the serpent. (Numbers 21:4 ff.; John 3:14)

The murals

The two wall paintings by Simon Sörman are made 1938 and 1953. The first one is based on the Gospel of Luke, chapter 15. You see the parable of the lost sheep, the parable of the lost coin and the parable of the lost son.

Simon Sörman was a newly educated artist in the 1937 and yet he had not found his own style, so at first he used Norwegian rustic romantic style adapted to churches. He used to have his relatives as models; in this wall painting he put his parents, his wife, his sisters and two or three artists colleagues.

We can even find the famous writer Eyvind Johnson, from Boden, in this wall painting. Up to the left, between the woman in white dress and the man with a blue jacket, there is a third head…

The doorway to the southern grandstand is blocked up with brick stones and can be seen high up close to the ceiling, to the left of Eyvind Johnson.

The name of the second one is: The master and the young couple are together holding the little child. The almond-shape connects heaven and earth as well as it is surrounding Jesus.

Now Simon Sörman has found his own style  

The drapery paintings will remind us about the tabernacle, the Israelites portable temple in the desert (Exodus 25 – 26).

The bride's chamber

This is a former coal-supply from 1886 when the first stoves, the so called Gurney’s ovens, were installed. The chamber is fit up with elegant Rococo styled furniture. The brass bracket lamps are made in the years 1707 and 1724. These were received from the mother church in ’Lower’ Luleå in connection with the dividing of the parish. We also received an old chasuble, sewed in 1756.

The sanctuary of Mary

Between 1931 and 1980 the former sanctuary was used for baptismal rites only. But in the end of the 1970th there was a need for a little church into the big church so the ’Mariakor’ the Sanctuary of Mary was built. Its design will remain of the steelworks’ era in Norrbotten.

Steel tubular chairs, white painted steel tubes and the glass are shaped as small billets (bars) and everything which in the colour of red-lead paint is steel.

The columbarium

Since 1953 there is a columbarium (an urn-sepulchral chamber) with a granite altar designed by Knut Nordenskjöld and a third work by Simon Sörman. This is created of handmade mosaic. This one symbolizes the victory of the cross. The crown of thorns is thrown down, the cup is settled, and the victory is won. The lion at the watering-through is made by Ebba Hedqvist.

Our columbarium is placed in the former vestry. The tradition with columbaria was brought to Sweden in late 1890s. It is uncommon, almost rare, with columbarium in Sweden. They are most frequently found in Stockholm and its surroundings. You may find them inside the churches and outside in the near of the churchyards. You may also find them at the crematories.

The organs

The first organ had its place at the southern grandstand. The parish was poor so it lasted until 1842 before the first organ could be bought. That organ was a small one with 7 tunes, pedal tune and two bellows.

In 1894 the first organ was pulled down together with its grandstand. The new organ, with 25 tunes, was to be build, at the western grandstand, by the schoolteacher, cantor and organ builder Nils Oscar Alm. Later on he also became a local politician. They had to lower the grandstand so it was room for the organ.  

In 1895 the organ was ready for use and a year later, in 1896, the bishop consecrated her. Since then the organ has been rebuilt twice but still we see the front from 1894. 

The church bells

The parish had the possibility to buy its first bell casted by the founder
S. C. Grönvall in Stockholm. She was heard for the first time in November 1832. This first bell was in use until 1856 when it cracked. She was recasted, in Sundsvall by the founder N. P. Linderberg in 1858 and still she is our big bell. He also casted our small bell in 1857.

The churchyard

The first Churchyard was rather small. After 40 years it was filled up and needed to be enlarged.

In 1929 the chapel is consecrated. The artist Sten Nilsson has decorated the walls.     

Today we have:

  1. The enlarged churchyard – with the urn graves along the wall that faces the old court-house. Since June 2014 there is an ash-urn cemetery as well.
  2. The Lundagård cemetery with a memorial park.
  3. The Forrest churchyard with a memorial park in Södra Svartbyn.

The church tongue

- the moraine hill on which the church is built.

From 1833 a church town with small houses, stables and narrow streets grew up. The houses were not only used at the church visits. The houses were also used when one was visiting the market, the court, at tax collecting and when it was time for confirmation classes. The difficulties of finding accommodation in the village of Boden made it necessary for the most far-off living peasants to build houses and stables.

There were plans for 400 houses but the greatest amount was 324.
In 1919 remained 128 houses. During the years to come many houses felled into decay or were vandalized.                      

Today here are 32 renovated houses. During summertime they are rented by tourists and others who need accommodations for a short time.

The constitution of the parish of Överluleå involved a courthouse. This was ready to be used in 1834. In 1932 the Överluleå district rural court needed more spacious localities and left the church tongue.  

The Church-school, the so called Almska skolan (Alm’s School), from 1848 is our oldest schoolhouse. Today it’s used for conferences and local activities.