The 1894 White Church Tapestry 

Robbie LaFleur. August, 2022.

The format of the final tapestry was based on a historical Norwegian tapestry cushion cover.

The cushion cover is from Gammel Norsk Vævkunst: Putetræk og Tæpper i Farvetrykte Gjengivelser (Old Norwegian Art Weaving: Pillow Tops and Coverlets in Colored Reproduction), published in 1913 by Henrik Grosch, Director of the Kristiania Kunstindustrimuseum (now part of the Nasjonalmuseet, the National Museum), Vol. 1.

Birds on the tapestry include an eagle, bluebird, meadowlark, and a shrike. The shrike is a songbird, naturalist Myles Bakke wrote, “but they have the heart of a raptor. Roughly the size of a robin, this predatory bird utilizes a wide variety of prey species. These may include many species of insects, such as beetles and grasshoppers, and small vertebrates from frogs, lizards, and snakes, to birds and small mammals.” The shrike stores its prey by impaling it on a twig or barbed wire.

Read more about shrikes on the Valley Grove Preservation Society website in Myles Bakke’s essay, “The Butcher Bird.”

Perhaps a Norwegian immigrant, sitting in the stone church, saw a flash of blue feathers outside the window.

The meadowlark is a pretty prairie bird. When I asked the Valley Grove Preservation Committee members about which birds I should weave, Marlene Halvorsen commented, “With pastures converted to croplands they [meadowlarks] seem to have gone the way of the jackrabbit, sadly.  90% decline since I was in college.  I haven’t seen one in decades although they were a familiar sight on the fenceposts of our cow pasture in summer.  It would be fun to see one memorialized.”

A singing meadowlark.

Bald eagles soared over the valley when Norwegian immigrants first broke fields and built the stone church, but disappeared from the skies following WWII due to the widespread use of DDT to protect crops. Eagles have made a comeback through the efforts of the DNR and protection laws. Now Minnesota and Wisconsin are home to the largest population of nesting bald eagles in the United States outside of Alaska.

Minnesota’s state flower, the Showy Lady’s Slipper, is in one corner.

The Dwarf Trout Lily in the opposite corner is a beautiful endangered species found in nearby Nerstrand Big Woods State Park. It is an endangered species, only found in Rice, Goodhue and Steele counties in Minnesota.

The clasped hand image is taken from a popular 19th century gravestone motif, found on at least 12 of the gravestones in the Valley Grove Cemetery. 

Valley Grove gravestone
Photo: Robbie LaFleur
Valley Grove stone church
Gravestones outside the stone church where the tapestries hang. Photo: Robbie LaFleur

If you read this longer blog post, “Valley Grove Tapestries: Putting Together the Pieces of the White Church Tapestry,” you’ll learn about a significant mistake in this piece.

Back to Valley Grove Tapestries home