In the north of Sweden at the town of Arvidsjaur you find a small Sami town which was built as a church town. The church town was spread across northern Sweden to provide accommodation for the community when they came to the church for the mandatory services. The king of Sweden demanded all people of Sweden must attend church and since the people in the north of the country were spread across a large area they had a long way to travel to the local church making it impossible to go for a daytrip. This is the reason for the church towns being spread across northern Sweden.
The town in Arvidsjaur actually had several different sections in the old days. There was one for the tradesmen and another for the farmers. Both these groups were ethnic swedes. A third section was for the Sami people and it was called Lappstaden Lapp is the old word for Sami in Swedish and staden can translate into town. So it was basically the Sami Town of Arvidsjaur church area.
The Sami section of the church town is the only part of the town which has survived the rest has disappeared. The city looks a bit like an outdoor museum – but this isn’t the case. The church town is still in use as a town where the Sami people of the area can come for celebrations of important events. And they actually do.
The houses in the town is the so called Gåthie houses and they are very different from the other Sami church town of Fatomakke we had visit during our summer holiday. The huts here are square with a low wall which is quickly replaced by a roof leaning towards the center of the building. There are a lot of these huts where the people live next to each other. In addition to the living dwelling each hut had a storage unit as well. The storage units is looking bit like the traditional small food storage units but these are much bigger but they are still raised a bit above the ground to limit the infestation of animals in the storage.
When we walk around the area we actually meet a couple who are repairing one of the huts. It is a Swedish Sami couple where the hut has been passed down to the wife and the husband who is of Swedish origin is helping her repairing the hut. They are very eager to talk – and I think a part of the reason it takes them so long to repair the Gåthie is because they like to talk to all the visitors. They show us the inside of their hut and their storage unit which they close using an ancient lock which might be several hundred years old. The current storage hut is actually more than two hundred years old – surprisingly the ancient wood can keep for a long time in these woods.
The town has been kept more or less as it used to be without electricity and water inside the individual huts. But they have made some modernizations to the village. There is a communal toilet and shower facility which can be used by people staying in the village. I suppose this is one of the ways they can get people to keep coming – I got a feeling most people don’t like to go to the woods for toilet these days and they probably want a shower if they are staying in the village for several days.
The little town is like no other town we have seen in northern Scandinavia so it is certainly worth stopping by if you are driving nearby along the E45 which is the main inland road of Sweden. There is also a church in the city but the church is fairly new. The original church for the church town has been replaced by more modern church long ago – but they never moved Lappstaden.