We park ourselves on a coach, then on the way to the Kristineberg mine, we're told an incredible tale which aroused a lot of interest the world over. It all began on 28 November 1946, when machine driller Johan Olofsson set a final blast into the working face 6 of A ore at 107.6 metres just before midnight.
Everything was the way it always went, and so he then left for home just like he always did. At five the next morning, Albert Jönsson came down to carry on where Olofsson had left off. But when he went in, he was greeted by the form of Christ on the wall, two metres tall. In his headlights, the shape glittered silvery white sericite quartzite, framed by darker chlorite quartzite... Jönsson went to fetch a colleague, who also witnessed this unusual sight. So he got on with his work - but every time his headlamp turned towards the rock face, the form of Christ was still there.
At eight o'clock, mine captain Erik Eriksson was on his usual rounds. It was breakfast time, and people had all gone off to get something to eat. When the mine captain looked around, his eyes surveying this working face to check everything was as it should be, he also caught sight of Christ on the wall. He then summoned a photographer to come and capture the image, and then he told people about the phenomenon he'd witnessed while he was doing his rounds. At ten o'clock, following the meal break, the mineworkers - who'd all heard the tale by now - came to have a look.
When machine driller came back at two o'clock, he was greeted by
Jönsson, who told him all about the picture. And he says he was
completely dumbstruck. He knew that it was purely by accident that
the picture hadn't disappeared in the blast he set. Later on,
Olofsson converted to Christianity and gave up alcohol...
The rumours abounded, and the photo was published in the newspaper Norra Västerbotten. People made pilgrimages to the mine to take the lift down to 120 metres and then climb 13 meters up on a vertical iron ladder. A lot of people needed help to get up there, but they all thought it was worth the effort.
Everyone who visited felt they'd been touched by the hand of
God. The tide of visitors continued, and so did the work. The image
darkened and the space filled with gravel. Then, after a couple of
months, the image of Christ was no more. But the rumours continued,
and postcards were made of the image. A painting was also made,
which is now an altarpiece at the church in Björksele.
And this incident was linked, in the minds of the people, to a prophecy which wool artist Lisa Johansson attributed to her mother. She explained that she'd had a vision that Christ would show himself, and that there was a country where the image of Christ was buried deep in the bowels of the Earth. Nobody knew when this would happen, but Christ was to show himself three times before Judgment Day.
Christ in the supermarket
By the time the guide's got this far into the tale, we've made
it down to 100 metres and are able to get off the coach and go into
the underground church built not far from where the picture
appeared. This is known as Sankta Anna Underjordskyrka - the Saint
Anna Underground Church - after Saint Anna, patron saint of
mineworkers. Kristineberg was named after Kristina, the wife of
Karl Hultdin, the first settler there. Huldtin had actively decided
not to hunt for ore, and the farm was then sold when Boliden wanted
to mine the huge quantities of zinc and copper there.
But then people began to wonder about that name. Could it have been derived from another source? Krist-inne-i-berg, or "Christ in the rock"?
The tale continues, when the Konsum supermarket in Kristineberg was renovated in 1968 and the marble sheets behind the refrigerated display counter were removed. Stig-Göran Sjöström, manager of Konsum, kept the sheets of marble at his summer cottage - he thought they might come in handy. One day, his wife turned over a sheet and, to her surprise, saw an image of Christ which was very similar to the one that appeared in the mine. In fact, it was almost identical.
Christ had shown himself for a second time.
Now the marble sheet can be seen in the church in Kristineberg, and there's a large photograph at the Underground church. But while you're in the bowels of the Earth, take the opportunity to see a small exhibition of mining machinery. And you can buy jewellery at the café where we enjoyed a cup of coffee. Or why not buy a simple wedding ring? The church has become a popular place for weddings now.