Åsa Ringbom and Christina Remmer
Volume 1 of Churches of Åland is the first to be published in a planned series of eight volumes. A monumental and beautifully produced piece of scholarship, as befits its subject. Volume 1 sets the standard for the remaining seven, being an account of the mother church and its attending chapels. The stone churches of the 14 Åland islands, built of local red granite with high west towers, have fascinated scholars in different fields for centuries. It is very hard to overstate the importance of this undertaking, which is a model of scholarly thoroughness and dedication by a very large group of distinguished scientists.
The ground breaking and novel significance of Ringbom and Remmar's work is their determination to focus upon a multi-disciplinary appraisal, drawing upon scientific techniques not available to earlier generations of scholars: dendrochronology, C-analysis of wood and mortar, both conventional and radioactive dating, and a complementary dating of mortar using the Accelerator Mass Spectrometer Analysis (AMS) of the Aarhus University, Denmark and the Radio Carbon Dating Laboratory of Helsinki University and the Institute of Geology and Mineralogy at Åbo Academy University.
The elaborate results of these experiments and their attending speculations run to 300 pages of closely reasoned thoughtful pondering, which give a fascinating insight into centuries of Scandinavian history.
As Ringbom and Remmer observe:
This eclectic group of enthusiasts has produced a masterpiece of enduring value which will probably last as long as the Åland churches themselves. The illustrations of, for example, the main chest from the church of Hammarland, the brass candelabra with nine arms, the Chasuble in red velvet donated by Maria Helena Ström to the church in 1778 are incredibly rich touchstones from the past. The richness of Åland culture, so beautifully detailed by such wall paintings as Judas Thaddeus, and the general interior wall paintings, overwhelm the minutiae of cross referencing, speculating and scientific analysis so that the scholars never obtain a primary over the works of God, which is the real subject of this research.