One of the recently restored paintings at Trinity Lutheran Church.
One of the recently restored paintings at Trinity Lutheran Church.
Three paintings, after being restored to their former glory, were once again revealed to the congregation at Trinity Lutheran Church in Ostrander on Jan. 17 during a rededication ceremony.

The decision to restore the paintings, which have been on display at Trinity Lutheran Church, came about when the church council received complaints from members of the church about the condition of the three works of art. Church and church council member Roger Tangen noted that the paintings "were in great need of repair."

The artworks being in need of repair would seem plausible because all three paintings are dated more than 100 years ago. The paintings came to their former home at Trinity Lutheran in the early '60s and were originally mounted in a hallway leading to the sanctuary. It was on Jan. 17 that they were rededicated in their new home inside the sanctuary, for all to gaze upon during the services.

Before finding their home at Trinity Lutheran in the '60s, the paintings, one from each, came from the congregations of Bloomfield Lutheran, Ostrander Lutheran and Bennington Lutheran after they merged in 1958 to make Trinity Lutheran, which was built in 1962.

When it was decided that the paintings would be restored, Tangen noted that a member of Bethel Lutheran Church in Rochester gave them the contact. The restorer was Sue Mueller of Mankato, and she was the restoration specialist that restored the altar painting in the Root Prairie Lutheran Church in rural Fountain that had been vandalized.

"We had her come to Ostrander to look at them and give us an estimate of the cost of restoring them and we decided at that time to send them back with her for cleaning and restoration," said Tangen.

The work Mueller completed involved bringing them back to their original look with them being cleaned to remove accumulation of insect debris, candle smoke, moisture stains and dust. Tangen noted that the backs of the paintings needed to be replaced because the backing was falling apart due to old age.

Tangen said the restoration process took about six months, stating that some of that time was for allowing the paintings to dry.

After returning from their stay in Mankato they are home, restored to their former glory, and are now ready to welcome future generations that gather at Trinity Lutheran.

Tangen added, "It is my hope that the paintings will be around for another 100 years, along with Trinity Lutheran."

Paintings history

The Crucifixion painting and the painting of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane were both painted by Sarah Kirkeberg Raugland of Ostrander in 1892 and 1896 respectively. The Crucifixion painting came from Bloomfield Lutheran Church and the other from Ostrander Lutheran.

The artist, Sarah Kirkeberg Raugland, was born and raised in rural Elgin, Iowa, in 1862, and she lives as one of the few female artists in her day. She set up a studio in Minneapolis and is estimated to have painted about 400 church altar artworks throughout the Midwest. Sarah married Carl Raugland in 1891, but painted under her maiden name until 1909. Tangen noted that some of Sarah's paintings are in the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum located in Decorah, Iowa. She died in 1960.

The third painting of Jesus Knocking at the Door was the altar painting from Bennington Lutheran. This artist was Clara Louise Bratrud and she was born to Ole and Elsie (Thorgrimsdatter) Bratrud of the area. They donated the land where the Bennington Church stood for so many years, which was a few miles west of Ostrander. Clara was a student of Sarah Kirkeberg and painted the picture for the altar in Bennington as a student. Tangen noted that the church currently doesn't have any information on when she was born, but it would have been in the latter half of the 1800s. Clara died young so she never became famous as an artist. Algernon (Buddy) Bratrud of Ostrander was a direct descendant of Ole and Elsie Bratrud and died in 2009.