Stockholm Royal Palace and dying craftsmanship

I have worked in the Royal Palace in Stockholm over the years, and also visited as a tourist. I love looking at the furnishings and architecture. There are things you never see in your normal life, in terms of master craftsmanship and expertise. Royal Palace staffing requirements hundreds of years ago were like whole villages of people who could do all kinds of things – metal workers, leather tanners, textile workers, artists, sculptors, master masons, seamstresses, furniture makers, etc etc. These artisans lived and worked within the palace walls, producing things that the man in the street would never experience. Just the grand scale of everything and the stunning ceiling murals are enough to stun you into silence.

Many of this artisanal knowledge does not exist today, even though the proof of its existence is still out there in palaces and museums all over the world. The Stockholm Palace has expert restorers working constantly to keep existing examples of old craftsmanship alive. There are, however, certain textiles that cannot be restored because no one knows how to perform that specialised skill anymore. Some of the masonry is done using methods that are no longer passed down from one generation to another.

There is another issue as well in that in the times these huge edifices were built and their contents were produced, cost was of no consequence. Monarchs often spent to excess to show their power and wealth, and functionality was often not a priority. Neither was the safety of workers.  Nowadays cost-cutting is key, particularly if it is state-funded. And methods must support a safe work environment.

This is probably going to be an issue with the restoration of the Notre Dame. Built in the 12th and 13th centuries, attitudes were much different when it was built. Not to mention that there is probably not enough forest nearby to rebuild the entire roof. Will there be expertise and knowledge enough to recreate what was lost? Will the cost of it become a huge issue, given that many will feel there are more deserving causes which need the money more?


Author: Janet Carr

Fashion, beauty and animal loving language consultant from South Africa living in Stockholm, Sweden.

3 thoughts

  1. At the moment they still have to decide about the architecture they want to rebuilt the roof of Notre Dame. There are debated about building a modern roof or a more traditional one in wood. And then if the wood option is chosen, which style to give it. The roof of Notre Dame has never been made from wood coming from nearby forests as these woods are kept for smaller structures. It has always been imported from forest from anywhere in France. The last time the roof was rebuilt, in1859, the wood came from Champagne. Finding quality wood in France has never been an issue as there are lots of forests.
    There are also debates about the date they want the restoration for. They have the teams of architects, the highly trained specialists, the money and the wood but they still haven’t decided on a style.

  2. You are right about the skills, Janet, however, our local cathedral at Exeter has had roof repairs, carried out by my father. The dead used was stores by the cathedral from the original 11th and 12th centuries. It was pre-Besemer process and hence still contained traces of silver. The mason was a specialist carver, who has worked all over. The world and I have met him several times. He has trained several younger men, so I’m sure there are men out there to do the work, if the French have the will.

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