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St. Peter's Church, Malmo

St. Peter's Church (Swedish: Sankt Petri kyrka) - Gothic brick church in Malmo, Sweden. Built in the 14th century as the main church of the city, it was described as "the main Gothic monument in the church architecture of Skåne". The church was a spiritual centre during the Reformation and was one of the few churches at that time in medieval Denmark that suffered from iconoclasm as a result of the Reformation. St. Peter's Church contains late medieval frescoes of recognized high quality as well as a number of unusual furnishings. The altar decoration, made in 1611, is one of the largest in Scandinavian countries.

Historical Background

St. Peter's Church is the oldest church in Malmö, as well as the oldest surviving brick building and originally the only parish church in the city. It is typical of the younger medieval towns of Skåne, such as Malmö, to have only one original parish church; near Lund, on the other hand, the older settlement had a high concentration of churches at an early age. The explanation is probably that Malmö gained importance at a time when the land was already divided into parishes after Christianization of Scandinavia in the preceding centuries. Malmö began its rapid expansion with the lucrative trade in herring around 1200, and the town was part of the economic infrastructure around the Hanseatic League and Skåne Market. By the end of the Middle Ages the city had established itself as the most important trading city in the province. St. Peter's Church was described as "the main Gothic monument in Skåne church architecture" and as "a very good and very authentic representative of the Baltic brick gothic". In the 14th century St. Peter's Church was the largest city church in Denmark. It is part of the urban structure with a largely untouched medieval street plan.

During the Reformation, the church played an important role as a spiritual centre and reformer Klaus Mortensen worked in the church as a priest. One of only four incidents of iconoclastic violence during the Danish Reformation took place in St Peter's Church in 1529, when Klaus Mortensen led the destruction of most of the church's jewellery, which the Reformer considered "too Catholic". Of the more than sixty pre-reform altars, only one remains more or less intact. It was after the Reformation (1555) that the interior of the church was whitewashed.

St. Peter's Church, Malmo


Construction of the now visible church began in the early 14th century, replacing the old Romanesque church on the same site. It was probably opened in 1319 and dedicated to St. Peter and St. Paul, but the construction was completed only around 1380. The church is an example of Gothic brick architecture found around the Baltic Sea, probably best represented in Marienkirche in Lübeck, which was also probably used as a direct example in the construction of St. Peter's Church. St. Peter's Church. It also demonstrates certain influences of modern French Gothic architecture. The church was built of red brick and was a Gothic basilica with a western church tower and a transept connecting it to the ambulatory pentagonal altar. Later it was rebuilt and expanded over the centuries, but in general it retained its original appearance.

Later changes

The church has changed several times since it was built. The original church tower collapsed in 1420, resulting in the construction of a new tower and new vaults supporting the ceiling in the western part of the building. Already in 1442, the tower collapsed again and needed to be reconstructed. It was rebuilt as early as in 1890 when it acquired its present appearance after renovation. The tower is 98 metres high. At the end of the 15th century and at the beginning of the 16th century five side chapels were built, of which three are still standing today. Two of them are named after Saint Anne and Saint Mary respectively. The third was dedicated to St. George, but it is popularly called the Cramarcaplet ("Chapel of Merchants") and was built for the Malmö cloth merchants guild, but was used by several city guilds, whose coats of arms can still be seen in the chapel. The church porch was also built some time after 1420.

St. Peter's Church, Malmo

In 1847-1853, under the leadership of Karl George Brunius, the church was significantly reconstructed. At the time, the church was in indescribably poor condition, but the reconstruction of Brunius was nevertheless criticized for its severity. The church received a brand new, copper roof, and most of the walls were replaced with new bricks. Most of the outpatient clinic was completely dismantled and rebuilt, and almost all the buttresses of the church were heavily rebuilt. The white interior has been renovated, many Renaissance-style items have been removed; the altar part and the organ facade have been saved against Bruni's wishes, but the altar part is painted grey.

Between 1904 and 1910 another series of restoration work was carried out. During this time, the altar part was restored to its former bright colours, while the frescoes in the Cramarkapplett were opened and restored.

Small repairs and redevelopment works were also carried out during the 20th century. The chapel, originally dedicated to St. Anne, was rebuilt in 1964. Between 1965 and 1967, the interior of the church was renovated and the frescoes in Cramarcaplette were carefully restored. An additional restoration of the frescoes was carried out in 1999. In the 1980s, the church had bathrooms, a dressing room and an information desk. In 2011, another major restoration of the church's interior was carried out.

St. Peter's Church, Malmo

The interior

The inside of the church is characterized by a high aisle, reaching 25 meters (82 feet) in the transept. The walls, columns and vaults are whitewashed, giving the interior a light and vibrant atmosphere. The current state of the church is largely in line with what it achieved in the early 17th century.


The bracelet is richly decorated with late medieval frescoes. Some of the paintings may have been from the 1460s, while others date from the early 1510s. They were made by an unknown master or workshop. The frescoes were described as "iconographicly complex" and "technically perfect" and in stark contrast to the naivety typical of many paintings made in rural churches in the province around the same time. The frescoes cover both the walls and the vaulted ceiling and showcase several different motifs, both secular and religious, against the background of flowing green vines.


The altar part of the church is one of the largest in the Scandinavian countries. It is made of oak and reaches a height of 15 meters (49 feet). It was made in 1611 by several local carpenters: Jacob Kremenberg, Statistius Otto, Kurt Schnedker, Allrich Swarfer and Henrik Könnike together with the court painter Didrik Moll, who serves Christian IV from Denmark, and the local painter Peter Hartmann. The altarpiece consists of four floors or levels, one above the other. At the bottom is a depiction of the Last Supper in the centre and on each side are wooden sculptures of Moses and John the Baptist, respectively. Above it is the Crucifixion, and above it is the ascent. On the very top is the name of God, Yahweh.

St. Peter's Church, Malmo


The church department was opened in 1599. It was commissioned by city councilman Engelbrett Fris (or Engelbrek Fris) and produced by Daniel Thomasen. It has a certain resemblance to the chair of the Lund Cathedral, which was opened a few years earlier. It is made of black limestone and light sandstone, gilded in several places. The rich ornament depicts scenes from the life of Christ.

Baptismal font

The baptismal font was also made by Daniel Tomissen on behalf of another city council member, Rasmus Ludwigsen. It dates back to 1601 and, like the pulpit, is made of black limestone. The font is octagonal, with six sides decorated with scenes from the Bible. One of the other two sides has a donor's monogram and the other side bears an inscription commemorating the donation of the font to the church.

The other furniture

The organ has been in use since 1951, but its facade dates back to the late 18th century. Modern stained glass windows are in the Chapel of St. Anne, while the Chapel of St. Mary houses a wooden Madonna made in 1995, inspired by the medieval Madonna in the History Museum of Lund University. The church also contains several intricately decorated memorials above the city's dead burgers. The church also houses a small library, the Dringenbergska liberiet, which houses about 40 books from 1506 to 1570.

St. Peter's Church, Malmo