The Royal Chapel

There has been a chapel in the royal palace in Stockholm since the time of Magnus Ladulås in the late 13th Century. It has its own clergy and parish, known today as the Royal Parish.

The current Royal Chapel is the third of which we have detailed knowledge.

The oldest evidence of a chapel at the Tre Kronor Palace originates from 1284. At that time, Magnus Ladulås was granted permission from Pope Martin IV to use the Roman Curia’s mass setting in the chapel.

Nicodemus Tessin the Younger’s Royal Chapel from 1694, view from the choir towards the entrance. Engraving from Suecia Antiqua et Hodierna. Photo: The Royal Court

During the reign of Johan III, the Tre Kronor Palace underwent major changes. Towards the end of the 1570s, the King became increasingly interested in the barracks around the outer courtyard and a new royal chapel was built in the eastern half of the north wing.

Johan III's royal chapel was in use for most of the 17th Century, and the interior was modernised later. When Nicodemus Tessin the Younger was engaged by Karl XI in 1690 to prepare a radical restoration of the palace, the north wing and its façade facing Norrmalm came first. This meant that it was difficult to avoid the high windows of the royal chapel, which could not be brought into harmony with the symmetrical façade of the palace. As a result, a new chapel was build in the same place as the old one.

Burchardt Precht produced sculptures and stone work based on Tessin’s designs. Johan Sylvius took care of the ceiling, and the stucco work was entrusted to Carlo Carove’s workshop. Two monumental paintings were commissioned by David Klöcker Ehrenstrahl for the walls of the chancel. The royal chapel was completed by the new year 1697.

Only a few months later, on 7 May 1697, a fire broke out in the palace. The royal chapel, along with large parts of the palace, was completely destroyed. Some parts of the interior were saved, however, and these include the pew doors, parts of the altarpiece and Ehrenstahl’s paintings, which are now in Storkyrkan.

After the fire, Tessin was engaged to design a new palace starting from the north wing where the walls could still be used. This time, Tessin chose to move the Royal Chapel and the Hall of State on either side of the entrance gate from Slottsbacken in the southern part of the new palace.

Here it was possible to extend the chapel over two and a half storeys, giving it a different level of monumentality compared to the old location. The Royal Family's ceremonial moving in to the palace took place on Saturday, 7 December 1754. The next day, the chapel was consecrated by Archbishop Henrik Benzelius. The Royal Chapel has not had any major changes to it since then.

The interior

The chapel takes up the entire width of the south wing of the palace. The floor of Swedish green marble from Kolmården and white Italian marble was laid in early 1751. Two winged genii hover above the chancel carrying a band with the inscription PRO MUNDI VITA (for the life of the world).

The group of genii and their counterpart above the organ loft were modelled by Charles Guillaume Cousin. The broken pediment and relief figures of the altarpiece almost fill the entire chancel. The subject matter is Jesus in Gethsemane and has been in place since Tessin's time.

The altarpiece almost fills the entire chancel. The subject matter is Jesus in Gethsemane. Photo: Alexis Daflos/The Royal Court

North of the altar there is a Royal Box, which is entered directly from the floor that was originally Crown Prince Gustav's (III). The pulpit is richly decorated, the preacher is surrounded by clouds, angels and flowing draperies. The creation of the pulpit required complicated team work carried out between 1748 and 1752. The ceiling paintings were created by the leading monumental painter at the time the palace was built, Guillaume Taraval. The central ceiling panel represents Christ's Ascension.

Detail of the pulpit in the Royal Chapel. Photo: Alexis Daflos/The Royal Court

Interior and inventory

When the chapel was first used, the pedestals in the nave were empty, even though the intention was to have sculptures exhibited there. The statues of the apostles by Hans Michelsen that are currently there were presented to Gustav VI Adolf in 1968. The designs were paid for by Queen Desideria in the later half of the 1830s to be donated to the Catholic Church of Eugenia in Stockholm.

During the period of demolition in the 1960s in lower Norrmalm, the Eugenia congregation was forced to abandon the church, the statues were then donated in memory of the support from Queen Desideria and Queen Josefina for Stockholm's Catholics.

The pews in the Royal Chapel were made between 1695 and 1696 by the carpenters Hans Herman Steyerwald and George Haupt the Elder. In the 1730s the doors were used for new pews in the Riddarholmen Church, which held the church services for the Royal parish until the palace was habitable. The doors were not returned until the Royal Chapel obtained new pews in 1818.

The Royal Chapel in the Royal Palace is now open for church services on Sundays at 11 am all year free of charge. Find out more here.external link, opens in new window

The pews in the Royal Chapel were made between 1695 and 1696 by the carpenters Hans Herman Steyerwald and George Haupt the Elder. Photo: Alexis Daflos/The Royal Court