In the moodily lit crypt
of the beautiful romanesque
, you will find one column
carved in a simple bas-relief
with the likeness of a male figure who is embracing the column
. He's about 5 feet (1.5 meters) tall, with long hair and beard and dressed in a Viking string skirt
. What's he doing there? You won't find explanatory text
nearby, but if you head upstairs you can can pick up a leaflet from the visitor's center
The legend is originally from the province of Skåne in the south of Sweden, and is archetypical of the "master builder" legends associated with other Scandinavian churches, such as the Cathedral of Trondheim where the giant is named Skalle, or the church in Norrland, where the troll is charmingly named Wind and Weather.
The story also bears a striking structural resemblance to Rumpelstiltskin, where the hidden name of a creature is the key to avoiding disaster. And in the same unethical way, the protagonist cheats the terms of the wager by doing a little recon rather than actually guessing the name.
Following is the legend of The Giant Finn.
Long, long ago, when the Viking
s still lived In Lund, the gentle Saint Lawrence
arrived in town and decided to preach
to the people of Lund.
Many people came to listen to the Saint. The streets were so crowded that St. Lawrence led all the people out of town to a hill just north of Lund.
While they were holding their first service and singing joyful hymns until twilight, a giant suddenly appeared.
The giant did not like the hymns and wanted to get rid of the people. St. Lawrence explained that they had to stand in the open air, because they did not have a place to congregate yet.
The giant made a proposal to the Saint.
“I will build you the most magnificent church you’ve ever seen. If you guess my name before I have finished the work, you win the bet. If you lose, you must give me the sun and moon or your eyes”.
St. Lawrence accepted the terms of the bet.
Every night the giant arrived at the building site carrying half mountains. He cut them and carved them into beautiful ashlars and built the Cathedral of Lund.
And every night the Saint came by, trying to guess the name of the giant.
The giant only worked at night because giants, like trolls, cannot stand sunshine, or the daylight.
The summer passed. The giant kept building, and the Saint tried to guess the giants name. Alas, he tried in vain!
One day, the Saint realized that the Cathedral would be completed by the next night.
He could not reach the sun and moon to give to the giant. And he could not guess the giants name. He knew that he would have to give his eyes and become blind.
He went up the hill to look at the world and the sky for the very last time. Looking at the setting sun, he burst into a great despair.
His tears flew into the sky and became shooting stars. They are still flying round the earth and are visible every August.
Suddenly, the Saint was aware of a strange voice emerging from far down the hill. A woman sang a lullaby telling her baby the father Finn would soon come home bringing the eyes of the saint.
Now the Saint knew the name of the giant! He leapt down the hillside and stopped at the church where the giant was cutting the very last stone for the Lund Cathedral.
The Saint cried out the name of the giant. And the giant Finn threw the last stone a long distance, and laid a curse upon the Lund Cathedral that one stone should be missing forever.
Filled with rage, Finn made himself small by using magic. He crept into the crypt and grasped one of the columns.
He wanted to tear the column out of place and destroy all the building.
Just as he grasped the column, the sun rose and sent her first ray through the window of the crypt.
And giants do not stand the sun.
The giant Finn was turned into stone.
Source: The leaflet available at the visitor's center of the Lund Cathedral
Post: If anyone knows any backstory as to why Scandie cathedrals even have master builder legends in the first place, I'd love to include it here. I'm not aware of other cultures that blend creation myths into their architecture.