The Old Stone Church Tapestry

 Robbie LaFleur, 2022

“The Limestone Church Tapestry.” Robbie LaFleur , 2022

The stone church, begun in 1862, hosted church services for the Norwegian pioneers until the growing congregation moved into the larger white clapboard church in 1894. Later it became a guild hall, with the renovation expenses largely paid for by the Ladies Aid Society.

It was common for women in the Valley Grove countryside to raise chickens and sell their eggs and meat locally and in the Twin Cities. Perhaps the Ladies Aid women used some “egg money” to finance the remodeling of the stone church? The 1916 ledger Ladies Aid ledger noted, “lumber for gamle kirken” (lumber for the old church) = $74.40. Shingles cost the same amount. 

I depicted a Ladies Aid member based on a photo I found in the St. Olaf Archives. (See “What I was Thinking, Part Two.”) I just liked the way she looked strong and resembled my grandmother. When the tapestry was first displayed at the church in May, 2022, a woman who lives near the church came up to me and said, “That’s my great-grandmother, Berit Hope.” Her sister in Vancouver, who had been following my blog, recognized Berit from from the photo I posted. What a fun connection!

The partial cemetery gravestones flanking the tapestry are inspired by a particular towering gravestone. You can see it out the window of the stone church, looking toward the prairie and woods beyond.

Gravestone in the Valley grove cemetery, September 28, 2021. Photo: Robbie LaFleur

Symbols in this tapestry were the same ones woven into historical Norwegian tapestries, filling the background with color and pattern. Few empty spaces were left!

All of these symbols in the Valley Grove tapestry can be found in the historical tapestry below.
From the Nasjonalmuseet in Oslo:

Both the bottom and top borders of the tapestry are modeled after the famous Norwegian Medieval Baldishol Tapestry, from around 1180.

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