Our host at the b&b is also the caretaker of the nearby church, called The Church of St. Mary, Saltvik.
Some of the excavations show use of the site since Viking times, and that it was used as a “landsting” or the parliamentary assembly location in Åland in the Middle Ages.
What we could see when we were there has some elements from many ages, starting with 1200s (the tower, porch and nave). Some of the wall paintings date from that age, although much of the church has been added onto and altered through the ages. The last restoration, 1956-7, restored the church close to its original shape and design.
There is a door high on one wall, and historians have puzzled about its possible use for many years. New discoveries indicate that the door was used primarily in the Middle Ages when priests were delivering the stories of the Bible to an illiterate population, so they dramatized many of the teaching stories from the Bible. In those dramas, the high door was used to deliver angels to earth, and to exit saved souls to the heavens.
Martin also told us that in its original form, the church had no windows on the north side, which was considered “the devil’s direction.” Thus no windows, and also women were seated on the north side of the churches. Quite rude, I thought.