I have spent the first days of 2011 updating the galleries at my website, a task that has been postponed way too long. While looking up photos of works that were finished during the last couple of years, I was reminded of some topics I had planned to write about on the blog here, but which did not happen at the time.
One of the posts that have been on the back burner for a while, is this one about the chasubles I delivered to the small church in the village of Ålfoten in May 2010. This was a very special commission.
The church is very old. According to oral tradition, it was built in 1610, so in 2010 they could celebrate the 400th anniversary of the building. There is evidence that the chuch was built on the spot where an even older church had been standing, – possibly a stave church, – so the site has a long tradition of worship.
I was contacted by the parish council in 2007 as they wanted to commission a green and a white chasuble to be finished in time for the 400th anniversary. 3 years may seem like a very generous time span in which to finish this, but these things take time, as the plans for the design, fabric choices, etc. must be approved by authorities on several levels before the actual sewing can begin.
My first step in deciding on a design is to visit the church and take lots of photos. Working from photos alone is possible, but I think it is important to also visit the place in person to get to feel the atmosphere, so to speak.
The photos are useful in several ways. In addition to reminding me of how things look, I can also scale the design proposals to a size that can be placed in the photo, in order to get an impression of how they will look in their proper place inside the church. An impression is all I get, however, – getting the fabric colours right by manipulating photos is nearly impossible. Fabrics ought to be seen live inside the church before deciding on the colour.
Inside the church has bare timber walls, built log cabin style, and with no paint. The only painted items in the church are the pulpit and the large altar piece, - large compared to the size of the church, that is. The top of the piece cannot be seen from the seats, – it is so tall they had to remove part of the ceiling to fit it in, and you have to go quite close to see all of it.
It is as old as the church, but was painted, or repainted, in 1767. Seen from a distance when entering the church, the visual impression, – except for the “wings” on each side, – is one of rectangles of different shapes, colour, and texture/pattern.
In the church there is an old, red chasuble that is still in use. The parishioners wanted the new ones to be the same size as this one, and approximately the same shape.
Taking my cue from the decor on the existing chasuble, and from the altar piece being divided into rectangles of different sizes, the chasubles ended up looking like this:
Green chasuble back and front
White chasuble back and front
When I visited the churh the first time, a small and curious detail on the altar piece was pointed out to me.
On the “wings” on each side of the altar piece, the twisted white oval surrounding the green branch has some red berries in between the twists. But one of the berries, – and only one, – is green instead of red. You can find it at the bottom in the oval to the right.
Nobody knows for certain why this one is different from the rest, but my thoughts went immediately to the stories we have heard about quilters making one obvious “mistake” so that the quilt should not be perfect, – the so called “humble block”. (The truth of, and/or reason for this is controversial, I know).
Another possible explanation is that this is the “signature” of the crafts person who made or painted the altar piece.
In any case, it is a special feature of this altar piece, which I chose to reflect in the design on the back of the green chasuble.
One of the grapes to the right is green instead of red.
The chasubles were officially delivered on the day of the anniversary service in May, – on Whitsunday. This was only a small part of everything that was going on, so with all the activities, I did not get a chance to get a decent photo of the chasubles inside the church.
Since my husband was away on his job, I invited my mother to accompany me to the service and to the celebrations afterwards. She took this photo inside the church while I was presenting the facts and ideas that led to the finished designs. It was not easy to get a good shot as the church was very crowded, - there was even a tent set up outside for the ones who could not get inside the church itself. The service was recorded on video and sent live on the internet and on a large screen in the tent outside, and is still available here. Slide the time button to about 58 or 59 minutes into the video, and you can see two of the priests who attended the service acting as mannequins and walking the chasubles up and down the aisle so everyone could see them.
After the service there was a large celebration in the school gym, which doubles as the village hall.
These small villages really know how to organize and put on a celebration, and to make the guests feel welcome. With a population of less than 200, everyone had at least one thing, and in most cases several tasks, to do during the day, and everything went smoothly, – not one glitch was noticed during the whole day.
We were early, but all of the more than 200 seats were filled before the lunch was served: “rømmegrøt og spekemat” (sour cream porridge and cured meat), and home baked crunchy bread: “flatbrød”
The “rømmegrøt”, or “rjømegraut” in the local dialect, was served wedding style: a procession with a musician (usually playing a fiddle, but in this case an accordion) marching in front, and all the “waiters” each carrying a bowl coming behind in a long row. The “rjømegraut” was marched twice around the perimeter of the room before it was served on the tables.
There were of course lots of congratulatory speeches, an overview of the history of the church, and lots of singing and music.
And then there was coffee, tea, and cake for everyone.
Lovely cream cake with a marzipan cover, – yum!
Before we leave Ålfoten, I want to show you a few more details from the church itself.
This is the baptismal font. Very handy when the space is limited like it is in this small church.
On the side wall to the right there are two rows of wooden pegs. In former days the menfolk sat in the seats to the right, while the women were seated to the left (as seen from the entrance). These pegs were for the men to hang their hats on during the service. The women would leave their headwear on.
The photoes above were all taken in summer time, but I had also occasion to see the church in winter time on one cold January day when I went there to photograph some fabric samples inside the church.
I took care to be there in the middle of the day, so there would be some light. This was an ordinary day with no service, so the heating was not on, and the “mood” was quite different.
There was ice on the window panes (which I could not resist capturing with my camera), but with the clear sky and the snow covered ground outside, we got the light we needed, even though it was different than in the summer.
I guess it could sometimes have been as cold as this also during services in former times, when heating was less available.