In the Footsteps of Emanuel Swedenborg

IMG_6041.JPGVisitors to the city of Stockholm who find themselves with an hour or two to spare can enjoy a walk in Swedenborg’s old neighborhood, in the city’s Södermalm district. The memory of the Swedish scientist, philosopher and theologian is kept alive in the area thanks to several public monuments in his honor and a street bearing his name. The Stockholm Metro (Stockholms tunnelbana) includes a stop named Maria Square (Mariatorget), located just one block from the square and city park. The stop exits onto Swedenborg’s Street (Swedenborgsgatan), which terminates at the square. For Google Maps coordinates go here.

IMG_6044.JPGIMG_6013.JPGMaria Square, called Adolf Fredrik’s Square in Swedenborg’s time, features a large fountain and a number of bronze sculptures, including a bust of Swedenborg made in 1973 by the Stockholm artist Gustav Nordahl. (See photos, left.) On the pedestal just below the bust is a bronze relief depicting the famous story about Swedenborg and the “angel” in the mirror. As the story goes, a girl from the neighborhood repeatedly asked Swedenborg to show her an angel.

Eventually he agreed, leading her to a summerhouse in his garden. Telling her, “Now you shall see an angel,” he drew up a curtain, and the girl saw herself reflected in a mirror. This event, first recorded by Bernhard von Beskow in his 1859 biographical sketch of Swedenborg, took place just down the street from Maria Square, in the garden of Swedenborg’s property on Hornsgatan.

IMG_6050.JPGIMG_6048.jpgHornsgatan, one of  the streets enclosing Maria Square, also borders the property bought by Swedenborg in 1743, now surrounded by buildings on all sides. A large cast-iron plaque commissioned in memory of Swedenborg has been placed on the wall of one of these buildings. (See photos, left.) The plaque was dedicated on January 29, 1888, on the two hundredth anniversary of Swedenborg’s birth, by members of the New Church in Sweden. It features his portrait and an inscription with a quotation in Latin from Heavenly Secrets, one of his theological works: “The time will come when people will be enlightened” (4402).

IMG_6055.JPGWhen the plaque was erected in 1888, Swedenborg’s summerhouse, the last remaining building on his old property, was still standing in its original location nearby. It remained there until 1896 when it was moved to Skansen, an open-air museum on the island of Djurgården. In 1989 a full-scale replica of the summerhouse was erected on the property just a few yards from the place where the original structure had stood. (See photo, left.) The replica summerhouse resides in a courtyard with a garden, adjacent to a children’s playground.

IMG_6046.JPGEditors’ Note: The courtyard and replica summerhouse are on private property (Hornsgatan numbers 41-43), and are not visible from the street. Access is not possible unless prior arrangements have been made.

Photos: The photographs were taken by Ed Gyllenhaal during a trip to Stockholm in July of this year.

Further Reading:

Google Maps: Mariatorget

The Angel in the Mirror

Summerhouse of Emanuel Swedenborg

Swedenborg as Gardener

Roses in Bloom at Summerhouse of Emanuel Swedenborg

Replica of Swedenborg House at St. Louis World Fair (1904)

Swedenborg’s Property

Swedenborg’s Hobby

An 1896 Swedenborg Medal Commemorates the Moving of His “Summerhouse”

Questions and comments may be addressed to the editors at [email protected].

August 15, 2010 | Posted by: Ed and Kirsten Gyllenhaal in New Church History Fun Fact