Seaman’s Wife: Sjömanshustru

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Seaman’s Wife: Sjömanshustru

One of the striking aerial landmarks of Gothenburg is the bronze statue called Sailor’s Tower or Seaman’s Wife or Woman by the Sea (sjömanstornet or sjömanshustru/ jömanshustrun or kvinna vid havet).

The lady is looking out at the island of Hisingen separated by the Göta River (GötaÄlv) and at the sea (North Sea, North Atlantic Ocean): stoically waiting for her loved one. She stands on the top of a 60-meter-high tower next to the Maritime Museum (sjöfartsmuseet), and she is sculpted in bronze rising to 16-feet in height.

Björn Lindgren is the official guide to the tower. He has the story of the statue on his tips, and can regale the visitors with historical snippets of the tower and seafarers’ life.  He has acrophobia (afraid of heights) but likes his job: overcomes the irrational fear to narrate the tales of the tower.

The seaman’s wife is clad in a long loose dressor a rolling skirt billowing out at the back of her feet, and so is the scarf around her neck – indicating to the direction of the wind.

The landmark in Gothenburg aka Göteborgis a symbol of optimism and stoicismfor the people at home, and a reminder for the thoughts of seamen’s families and their prayers. She is neither holding a lantern nor a baby but her arms are clenched like namasthe and touching the tip of her chin. The tower is also a tribute to the seamen and sailors who lost their lives in the First World War.

Highlights:

  • Sjömanshustru was opened along with Sjöfartsmuseet (Maritime Museum) on 14 July 1933 but accessed by people a year later because of the industrial strike
  • The Maritime Tower and Maritime Museum were opened in 1933 by King Gustav V
  • In 1934, there were 20,000 visitors
  • Today it is one of the oldest landmarks in the city and the lady is a reminder to the city’s maritime past
  • The architect of the tower is Karl Magnus Bengtsson (7 May 1878 – 11 February 1935) and the sculptor the woman is Ivar Viktor Johnsson (12 February 1885 – 16 August 1970).
  • The tower has a staircase (192 steps) and the elevator (accommodates only 5 people) 3 people in the elevator and the top terrace is not that big
  • The guide to the tower is Björn Lindgren
  • At the base of the tower there are 690 names of Swedish sailors who lost their lives in World War 1. The names correspond to the (98) ships in which they sailed and never returned.
  • The local lores are – the woman was unfaithful to the husband because she was longing for her lover by looking at the island Hisingen instead of facing at the sea for her husband’s arrival. However, the sculptor has consciously made her to look at the island rather than the sea so that the locals can see her in profile or in good view …
  • The views from the top of the tower gives 360 degree views of Gothenburg (Göteborg)

The opportunity to see the city from the feet of the Sailor’s Wife was given to tourists and visitors in summer. The museum officials are planning to give residents and tourists access to the tower so that it will be opened more frequently in the coming months and years.

The Seaman’s Wife stands next to the Maritime Museum and Aquarium (Sjöfartsmuseet&Akvariet). In fact, the museum uses the lady as its official symbol. You can contact the museum for a visit to the tower.

Locally, the woman by the sea is described as sjömanshustrunpåtoppenavsjömanstornet. There are lores and legends associated with it depending upon who is interpreting it: she is waiting for her husband, pining for her beau, afraid for the safety of her loved one, and poignant symbol of optimism during the dark days.

Text & Photos: Kovuuri G. Reddy