It’s July, and the roses are blooming in Swedenborg’s summerhouse garden at Skansen, an open-air museum in Stockholm, Sweden. The rose garden at Skansen, designed in 1964 by the landscape architect Walter Bauer, was not intended to replicate Swedenborg’s original garden. Nevertheless, with a little imagination Bauer’s formal garden may serve to evoke some sense of the flowery vista that originally led the way to Swedenborg’s summerhouse. Skansen, the world’s first open-air museum, was founded in 1891, gathering together historic buildings typical of various regions in Sweden. Today it remains one of Stockholm’s most popular tourist destinations.
Readers of previous New Church History Fun Facts may remember that Swedenborg had the summerhouse built for the garden at his property in Stockholm, where it remained in the same location for more than a century before being moved to Skansen in 1896. According to Carl Robsahm (1735-1794), “Before [Swedenborg’s] house there was an ornamental flower bed, upon which he expended considerable sums of money; he had there even some of those singular Dutch figures of animals, and other objects shaped out of box-trees; but this bed he did not keep up in his later years. The greater part of the site in the west constitutes a considerable garden with choice young fruit trees, flowers, and vegetables, and also many large and fine lime trees standing in uninterrupted order in the house garden and the pleasure garden” (See “Robsahm’s Memoirs of Swedenborg,” in Documents concerning the Life and Character of Emanuel Swedenborg (Vol. I), comp. and ed. R.L. Tafel, London, Swedenborg Society, 1875).
The rose garden at Skansen is divided into sixteen quadrants. Twelve of the quadrants are completely square and surrounded by low, clipped box hedges. The other four are rectangular. The tea roses in the boxwood quandrants are all recent hybrid varieties, provided by a company in Germany. They are named for various famous individuals, including “Ingrid Bergman,” “Astrid Lindgren,” “Karen Blixen,” Kronprinsesse Mary,” “Marie Curie,” and even “Paul McCartney.” On the east side of the formal garden stands a bed of roses growing more freely, descendants of the original varieties planted by Walter Bauer in the 1960s. The west side of the garden is bordered by a number of lime trees (i.e. linden or basswood), and a low wall. While completely coincidental, these call to mind the “many large and fine lime trees standing in uninterrupted order” mentioned by Robsahm.
The garden also includes four marble statues symbolizing the four elements: earth, water, air and fire. At the north side of the garden, directly opposite Swedenborg’s summerhouse, is a bronze sculpture of Carl Linnaeus, also known as Carl von Linné (1707-1778). Often called the Father of Taxonomy, Linnaeus’s system for naming and classifying organisms is still in wide use today. The sculpture, a copy of a woodcarving by Arne Bergh, was erected in 2007 in honor of the 300th anniversary of the birth of Linnaeus. Like Swedenborg, Linnaeus saw nature as an expression of the Divine: “And now man has been created to honour his Creator: God has also manifested himself to man through revelations and what he has created: all things have a unique and wonderful form: all things are created to be of use at length to man . . . For the omniscient Creator has created nothing in vain, but for a specific purpose, or to be of service to someone . . . Everything he has created is good” (Carl Linnaeus, as quoted in Swedenborg’s Secret: A Biography, Lars Bergquist, The Swedenborg Society, London, 2005, p. 137).
Photos: All of the photographs were taken by Ed Gyllenhaal during a trip to Stockholm in July of this year.
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