Tubal-Kain och den mystiske smeden i Öja

  • Lars Berggren Art History & Visual Studies, Åbo Akademi University, Finland


Title: Tubal-Kain and the Mysterious Blacksmith in Öja, Gotland
On the late-Gothic north portal of Öja Church in southern Gotland, a strange human figure lies stretched out on top of the colonnettes. Dressed in a long robe and a peculiar hat, with a full beard and long curly hair, he is holding a hammer and a tong, which in turn grips a horseshoe. That he is a blacksmith seems obvious, but nothing else indicates his identity. Who is he, what is he doing there, and when did he get there? In previous research this figure is habitually identified as St Eligius or St Dunstan, both patron saints of blacksmiths. On the basis of his attributes, position in the portal and the contemporary literary and iconographic context, especially the immensely popular Speculum humanae salvationis, the author reviews the grounds for this assumption and argues for a new solution to the question of the smith’s identity: Tubal Cain, the antediluvian inventor of the craft of smithery and working of iron. However, none of these identifications can be considered secure: it is quite possible that we are dealing with a portrait of a local chieftain or magnate whose prominent position is legitimized by the addition of saintly attributes.

How to Cite
BERGGREN, Lars. Tubal-Kain och den mystiske smeden i Öja. ICO Iconographisk Post. Nordisk tidskrift för bildtolkning – Nordic Review of Iconography, [S.l.], n. 1-2, p. 129-152, nov. 2020. ISSN 2323-5586. Available at: <https://ojs.abo.fi/ojs/index.php/ico/article/view/1703>. Date accessed: 24 sep. 2021.