We were part way through Rachmaninov’s Prelude No 1. when it happened. A few heads in the audience turned to look around, to check they’d not imagined it. Renowned concert pianist Irma Gigani, from Georgia, found herself playing in Kiruna church to an underwhelmingly small audience, but I’m betting that’s the first time she’s felt the ground move during a performance.

I wasn’t surprised by the mini-quake. The church is on threatened ground, like so much of ‘old Kiruna’, and we’re used to a bit of jiggling and thundering now and again. But I am surprised that it now looks like LKAB (the mining company) really is going to move the church, as a whole, to a site in the new town. For the last few years each time it’s been mentioned I’ve thought that when it comes to it they’ll just say it’s all too difficult, and instead they’ll just dismantle and rebuild it.

Kiruna church, not built for easy manoeuvring

But now, seeing is believing, and we see the preparations for the move. It’s a very wide bulky building and won’t fit on the existing road structure, so they are building some new roads, just for the church to travel on, just on one day later in the year.

It’s mind boggling really. There’s damage from a climate emergency, nations are at war, there’s the cost of living crisis and local councils all short of money. But in the magic world of LKAB, Kiruna church will go to the ball.

Kiruna has already lost some iconic buildings because they were too much trouble to move so it was reasonable to assume they would stall at the first fence when it came to moving the church. Yes it was once voted Sweden’s favourite building, but that was a while ago now and very few Swedes have actually seen it. Yes it was paid for originally by LKAB, but so were lots of things that are falling into the pit. Yes it’s a church and destroying churches isn’t a good look. But we still thought they wouldn’t bother.

But bother they do – there is an astonishing amount of road construction work planned to move it, just at a time when most of Kiruna is being knocked down. The church’s red carpet road will be built around the town’s old, abandoned, main through road, which will have to be widened significantly to allow for the church’s wide beamage. That means rebuilding very wide overhanging bridges, removing street furniture, closing roundabouts, and physically constructing new road along a three kilometre distance. It seems nothing is too much trouble for the church’s fairy godmother, LKAB in this instance.