TillbakaChildren of the light

The Tree of International Reconciliation

In 1986 Uppsala Cathedral hosted the Fourth General Assembly of the World Council of Churches. To mark the occasion, artist Olof Hellström (b. 1923) created what came to be Sweden’s foremost candle holder of its kind – a big candelabrum with a lighted candle from which church visitors could light candles of their own and place them next to the “first light”.

The idea is said to have come from Martin Lönnebo, who at that time was Cathedral Chaplain. The candle holder came to be emulated throughout the length and breadth of the country, and today a candle holder of one kind or another will be found in practically all churches of the Church of Sweden. Entering a church and lighting a candle is such common practice today that it can be looked on as a form of private devotion or ritual.

The Cathedral candle holder is shaped like a tree and entitled “The Tree of International Reconciliation”. It is shaped like a cross whose arms extend into a sphere, with the arms turning into branches and twigs and the leaves together forming the continents on the map of the world. The candle holder is made of Uppland wrought iron, the work of the smith Folke Mattsson (1916-1990) and his sons Lars and Jan Mattsson, of Österby Bruk.

A second candle tree, also designed by Hellström and entitled Arbor Inversa (the inverted tree), was installed in 2004. This takes the form of a tree with its roots uppermost and its crown and green foliage bottommost. The trunk has a thick, gnarled bark, symbolising the power below the surface, and the tree can be said to symbolise links across boundaries and between religions.