Health and Wellness: Discovering Malmo, Sweden

4 September

The cathedral in the heart of Malmo, St Petri Lutheran Church, is shown in a city etching dated 1580. It is the oldest surviving church and the oldest brick building in the city. The herring fishery of the thirteenth century was the start of Malmo developing into a flourishing commercial centre. As a result the people of Malmo came into contact with the Hanseatic League around the Baltic Sea. It gave inspiration to build a new church that would accentuate Malmo’s position as a leading commercial centre. Consecration of St Petri Church is believed to have taken place in 1319. The church was completed in 1380 with the Apostles Peter and Paul chosen as patron Saints.

Dating from the Vikings, the seventeenth century for Malmo was a period of long drawn out conflicts between Denmark and Sweden regarding the Skane region. In 1658 peace was declared in Roskilde, and Denmark was forced to give up Skane in addition to other land to Sweden. By l March the first Swedish troops had arrived in Malmo to take possession of their new city. The Swedish king, Karl X Gustav, arrived in Malmo a week later. On 15 March he signed a charter granting the city the right to trade with Swedish and foreign ports.

When war was brewing again between Sweden and Denmark in 1675, work on the fortifications was accelerated. The Danes declared war in September and soon overran most towns and cities in Skane. Only in Malmo did the Swedes manage to hold their position, but the city was blockaded by Danish troops. The attack failed forcing the Danes to retreat on 5 July 1676. A Swedish fortifications expert had been the commandant of Malmohus Castle since 1669. Following the peace treaty of 1679 new fortifications were installed to his designs.

The castle has a long and troubled history but today stands as the oldest preserved renaissance castle in the Nordic region. It houses the Malmo Museum with its newly opened aquarium. Exhibitions deal with history, technology, maritime navigation and nature. The Museum hosts permanent and temporary exhibitions on a wide range of art and culture. Today Malmo is the third Swedish city after Stockholm and Gothenburg. Most of it is accessible on foot offering a wide range of leisure, pleasure, cultural and open space facilities including city parks. The modern and cosmopolitan city is home to people from 174 nations with around 70 different spoken languages.

A particular event was a cross mission to rescue Nazi concentration camp survivors at the end of WW2 who arrived in Malmo in 1945. The transfer of about 2,000 people from twenty European countries was secretly negotiated under the protection of the Swedish Red Cross with associated humanitarian assistance. After a long and danger ridden journey some didn’t survive and all were in a pitiful state of health and neglect. The Museum and Castle were closed to serve as reception centres where they were accommodated to provide for essential care over a period of two years. The story is told with an exhibition of film, pictorial, personal testimonies and more on display at the Castle. The rescue list shows an Irish name ‘Mary O’Shaugnessy (Poland) 03-12-1898 – 28-04-1945’. There is a family submission about her brave and sad story on BBC People’s War An archive of WW2 memories.*

Health and Wellness

Alongside Malmo’s Ribersborg three kilometres sandy beach, the open-air cold bath house Ribersborgs Kallbadhus provides wood-fired separate and mixed saunas and nude sea bathing, or ‘skinny dip’, all year round. No swimsuits are required due to its separate sections for women and men. With access over a foot bridge it was originally for mixed bathing and provides catering and other modern facilities. Known as Ribban by the older and Kallis by the younger generation it is a place where locals and visitors to Malmo like to go for health and wellness.

The bath was inaugurated in June 1898 on the initiative of C.A. Richter who bought the old bathhouse at Nyhamn Port that was being sold because of the port’s expansion. Four years after its opening the new bath was damaged during a Christmas storm. It was rebuilt and during refurbishment a diving tower was added to the men’s section. In the 1930s it was modernised for nude bathing with privacy added between the sections. It was damaged again in 1988 and repaired. In 1966 the City of Malmo purchased the bath house that was declared a historic building in 1995 and is a protected site. There are interested groups in Malmo who help to maintain the facilities.

The open-air bath location provides an unspoiled sea vista with a distant view of the impressive Oresund Bridge, or Oresundsbron, a dual rail and road bridge across the Oresund Strait, connecting Malmo in Sweden with Copenhagen in Denmark. Construction began in 1995 and it was opened to traffic in 2000. The baths are also near the original architectural neo futuristic twisted skyscraper building in Malmo, known as the ‘Turning Torso’. It is fifty-four storeys high containing 147 apartments, and is renowned as the first twisted skyscraper in the world.

*The Forum archive is now closed. Messages were added to this story by members between June 2003 and Janauary 2006. The Page has been archived and is no longer updated. There is copyright for protection of content.

Ita Marguet, August 2017

Note: Acknowledgement is given to all sources used in this text. It follows articles between 2004 and 2014 on Health and Wellness: Mallow and its Spa House, Cechy Spa Triangle, Baths and Saillon, Switzerland, Baths in Saillon and Leukerbad, Hydropathy in Ireland, Vichy and its Thermes, on-line and/or in print, by Ita Marguet.