Church of Sweden

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Coat of Arms of the Church of Sweden

The Church of Sweden, or Svenska kyrkan, is the national church of Sweden. Until 2000 it also had a position as state church. 79.6 % of Swedes belong to this church (2003 statistics). Unlike most other Protestant churches — even its fellow Lutherans — the Church of Sweden continues to maintain the historic episcopate.



Sweden was, because of its geographical location in northernmost Europe, not Christianized until around AD 1000, around the same time as the other Nordic countries, when the Swedish King Olof was baptized. However, because of the unclear national borders, it can not be said that entire Sweden was fully Christianized until the 12th century, after the heathen Temple at Uppsala had been demolished; while in the northern disctrict Laplandia, little effort was made to introduce Christianity for another century. For a further account of the Christianization see Early Swedish History.

Sweden remained Catholic until the Protestant reformation in the 1530s. The most cherished national Catholic saints were the Swedish King Eric the Saint in the 12th century and the visionary Saint Birgitta in the 14th century, but other regional heroes also had a local cult following them, including Saint Botvid in Sudermannia, Saint Helena in ? and Saint Sigfrid in Smalandia, in their names miracles were performed and churches were named.

The Lutheran ideas spread in the 1530s, led by King Gustav Vasa and the brothers Olaus Petri, and Laurentius Petri in Sweden, and later Mikael Agricola in Österland, today known as Finland. The Lutheran Church gradually established itself in 16th century century, even though the exact forms were not defined in the Riksdag until 1591.

An important part of the reformation was the transition from Latin to the vernacular language in church services, and in translation of the Bible. Because of the Bible translation, the reformers Olaus Petri and Agricola also had an instrumental importance for the develoment of Swedish and Finnish as written languages. Other changes of the reformation included the removal of some Catholic rituals. However, the changes were not as drastic as in Germany; in many Swedish churches there still today remains artifacts from the Catholic time, such as crosses, crucifixes and icons. And many holy days, based on Saints days, were not removed from the calendar until the late 18th century because of a strong resistance from the population.

By the Treaty of Fredrikshamn in 1809, which followed the Finnish War, Sweden ceded Finland to the Russian Empire and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland became the successor to the Church of Sweden in Finland.

References: B. Gustafsson, Svensk kyrkohistoria, 1983. In Swedish


The head of the Swedish Church is the Archbishop of Uppsala. As a state church, and during the 20th century, bishops were nominated by a conclave of clerics and then formally appointed by the Government of Sweden, ultimately depending on legislation by the Parliament of Sweden. In 2000 when the Church was separated from the state, a new body, the Church Assembly, or Kyrkomötet, was created to fulfill the role previously held by the national parliament. Members of the Church Assembly as well as local Parish Councils are appointed in elections held every forth years among church members.

The Church describes itself in the following manner:

  • The Church of Sweden is an Evangelical Lutheran community of faith manifested in parishes and dioceses. The Church of Sweden also has a national organisation.
  • The Church of Sweden is an open national church, which, working with a democratic organisation and through the ministry of the church, covers the whole nation.

Administrative divisions

The Church of Sweden is divided into thirteen dioceses (stift). A diocese is divided into "contracts" (kontrakt), which are then divided into parishes (församlingar). One or several parishes may together form a larger parish (pastorat).

Cathedrals and seats of the dioceses

See also

External links

sv:Svenska kyrkan


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