Medieval churches in Norway

Undredal Stave Church

Undredal Stave Church was built in the middle of the 12th century. The church has been moved from different locations and reconstructed a few times. Around 1850 the building was extended to the west with the addition of a clock tower and porch. In 1913 there were plans to dismantle the church and move it to a museum in Kaupanger, but this never happened. Instead it was reconstructed in 1984 and under extensive maintenance ...
Founded: c. 1147 | Location: Undredal, Norway

Kvernes Stave Church

From ancient times Kvernes has been of great religious and cultural importance at Nordmøre. The excavation of a white phallus stone, a sacred symbol of fertility, supports this fact. The stave church was built around year 1300 and has a rather large main nave (16×7,5 m) with external diagonal props supporting the walls. Several repairs/reconstructions have been carried out. In 1633 the stave-built chancelwas ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Averøy, Norway

Trondenes Church

Trondenes Church is the northernmost medieval stone church of Norway. Though frequently mentioned as a 13th-century church, dating based on dendrochronology places its completion shortly after 1434. Compared to the other ten north Norwegian medieval stone churches, Trondenes church is well preserved and the exterior is close to the original state. The nave is 22.6 metres long and the chancel is 13.5 metres, making it one ...
Founded: c. 1434 | Location: Harstad, Norway

Eidsborg Stave Church

Eidsborg Stave Church is one of the best preserved Norwegian stave churches. The church was probably built between 1250-1300. The church is dedicated to the traveller"s patron, St. Nicholas of Bari. It was partly reconstructed in the 19th century. The chorus was demolished in 1826. The new choir dates to the period 1845-50. The reconstruction work did not affect the structure or the shape of the church. It was restor ...
Founded: 1250-1300 | Location: Eidsborg, Norway

Utstein Abbey

Utstein Abbey is Norway"s best-preserved medieval monastery. The abbey, dedicated to Saint Laurence, was founded in its present location during the reign of King Magnus VI of Norway (1263–1280). It was a house of Augustinian Canons. It appears however that this community was the one previously established as St. Olav"s Abbey, Stavanger, one of the earliest Augustinian monasteries in Norway if not the very ...
Founded: 1263-1280 | Location: Mosterøy, Norway

Sister Churches

There are two adjacent medieval churches in Gran called as Søsterkirkene, the sister churches. According to local folklore, the two churches were commissioned by two sisters who had fallen out and therefore would not be seen in the same church. It is, however, not uncommon for medieval churches with different functions to be built close to one another. The smaller one, dedicated to St. Mary, was built probably before 11 ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Gran, Norway

Ringebu Stave Church

Ringebu Stave Church was built in the first half of the 13th century. The church is first mentioned in 1270, although it can be older. It was rebuilt into a cruciform church around 1630 by master-builder Werner Olsen and in 1631 received its characteristic red tower. Of the original church only the nave remains, with free-standing posts in the inner area.Later restoration brought it back a bit closer to its original shape ...
Founded: c. 1220 | Location: Ringebu, Norway

St. Clement's Church Ruins

St. Clement"s Church or Klemet"s Church was one of the Roman Catholic parish churches of the old Oslo. It was a stone church with a tower, and it was one of the very few churches we know with the double-nave floor plan. Along the middle axis of the choir there were three powerful pillars that held the roof. The church went out of use after the Protestant Reformation, and expect it rather quickly was in ruins. T ...
Founded: c. 1100 | Location: Oslo, Norway

Kinsarvik Church

Kinsarvik Church is the oldest stone church in the whole Hardanger region, and at one time, it was one of the four main churches for all of Hordaland county. The present church seats about 240 people. The first wooden church in all of Hardanger was built on this site around the year 1050. It was most likely a wooden church which was replaced by the present stone church around the year 1160. Remains of the previous church ...
Founded: 1160 | Location: Kinsarvik, Norway

Alstahaug Church

Alstahaug Church built in the 1100s and it seats about 270 people. It was enlarged in 1865 and restored in 1960. The altarpiece dates from 17th century.
Founded: 12th century | Location: Alstahaug, Norway

Avaldsnes Church

Before the current Avaldsnes church was constructed, there was a wooden church on the same site. That church is assumed to have been built by Olav Trygvason, and it is possible that the present stone church is built around this church originally. The current church has been a landmark for seafarers passing through the strait of Karmsund for 750 years. King Håkon IV Håkonsson gave permission to build a church around the ...
Founded: 1320 | Location: Avaldsnes, Norway

Rødven Stave Church

According to a notice board outside the church, the nave and south porch of the Rødven Stave Church date from the 14th century, the crucifix dates from the 13th century and the pulpit from 1712. Inside are an ornately carved crucifix and pulpit. The church is a Møre-type stave church due to its structure and the exterior support posts that brace the walls. During an archeological survey in 1962-1963, marks w ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Eidsbygda, Norway

St. Margaret's Church

St. Margaret"s Church was a stone church built in the 13th century. It is now a ruin, but the ruin underwent a restoration in 1934, and is today the best preserved medieval buildings next to the Old Aker Church. The church is named after Margaret of Antioch.
Founded: 13th century | Location: Oslo, Norway

Uvdal Stave Church

Uvdal Stave Church was originally constructed just after the year 1168, which we know through dendrochronological dating of the pine tree used during the construction. The logs were not completely dry when the construction took place. The church was made on top of the remains of previous church on the site, thought to have been made with the use of imbedded corner column technology at the beginning of the 11th century. Th ...
Founded: 1168 | Location: Nore og Uvdal, Norway

Torpo Stave Church

Built in 1192, the Torpo stave church is the oldest building within the valley and traditional district of Hallingdal. The church was dedicated to Saint Margareta. The stave church was purchased by the municipality in 1875. It was initially planned to expand it with an annex to the east, but in 1879 it was decided instead to modernize the interior with new ceiling and gallery. Following protest from the Ancient Monuments ...
Founded: 1192 | Location: Ål, Norway

Bø Old Church

Bø old church was built between 1150 and 1180 in Romanesque style. The porch was added in the 1600s. There is a triumph crucifix from the 13th century, but the other interior dates mainly from the Renaissance age after Reformation.
Founded: 1150-1180 | Location: Bø i Telemark, Norway

Kaupanger Stave Church

Kaupanger Stave Church is the largest stave church in Sogn og Fjordane. The nave is supported by 22 staves, 8 on each of the longer sides and 3 on each of the shorter. The elevated chancel is carried by 4 free standing staves. The church has the largest number of staves to be found in any one stave church. It is still in use as a parish church, having been in use continuously since its erection. Kaupanger Stave Church wa ...
Founded: 1150 | Location: Kaupanger, Norway

Haltdalen Stave Church

Haltdalen Stave Church was originally located in Haltdalen, but today it is on display at the Sverresborg museum in Trondheim. The church was probably built in the 1170s. The church on display is a rebuilt version of two churches from Ålen and Haltdalen. The western wall and the portal is from the old Ålen church. This is a single-nave stave church of the east Scandinavian-style, and it is the only one that is ...
Founded: 1170s | Location: Trondheim, Norway

Vågå Stave Church

Vågå Stave Church, which was constructed around 1150, is one of the older stave churches in Norway. It was originally dedicated to St. Peter. The prior rectory was formerly called Ullinsyn. The older name of the site may show that even in pagan times, the location had been in use for worship. The church was converted to a cruciform church in 1626–28. Only the carved portals and decorative wall planks su ...
Founded: c. 1150 | Location: Vågå, Norway

Røldal Stave Church

Røldal Stave Church was probably built between 1200-1250. The church has a rectangular-shaped nave and chancel. The crucifix dates from about 1250. The altarpiece by German painter Gottfried Hendtzchell from Wroclaw in Silesia dates from 1629. The baptismal font is made of soapstone between 1200-1250. Bergen Museum holds a variety of building components and other artifacts from the medieval church. These include alter fr ...
Founded: 1200-1250 | Location: Odda, Norway

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Reims Cathedral

Notre-Dame de Reims (Our Lady of Reims) is the seat of the Archdiocese of Reims, where the kings of France were crowned. The cathedral replaced an older church, destroyed by fire in 1211, that was built on the site of the basilica where Clovis was baptized by Saint Remi, bishop of Reims, in AD 496. That original structure had itself been erected on the site of some Roman baths. A major tourism destination, the cathedral receives about one million visitors annually.

History

Excavations have shown that the present building occupies roughly the same site as the original cathedral, founded c. 400 under the episcopacy of St Nicaise. That church was rebuilt during the Carolingian period and further extended in the 12th century. On 19 May 1051, King Henry I of France and Anne of Kiev were married in the cathedral.

On May 6, 1210 the cathedral was damaged by fire and reconstruction started shortly after, beginning at the eastern end. Documentary records show the acquisition of land to the west of the site in 1218, suggesting the new cathedral was substantially larger than its predecessors, the lengthening of the nave presumably being an adaptation to afford room for the crowds that attended the coronations. In 1233 a long-running dispute between the cathedral chapter and the townsfolk (regarding issues of taxation and legal jurisdiction) boiled over into open revolt. Several clerics were killed or injured during the resulting violence and the entire cathedral chapter fled the city, leaving it under an interdict (effectively banning all public worship and sacraments). Work on the new cathedral was suspended for three years, only resuming in 1236 after the clergy returned to the city and the interdict was lifted following mediation by the King and the Pope. Construction then continued more slowly. The area from the crossing eastwards was in use by 1241 but the nave was not roofed until 1299 (when the French King lifted the tax on lead used for that purpose). Work on the west facade took place in several phases, which is reflected in the very different styles of some of the sculptures. The upper parts of the facade were completed in the 14th century, but apparently following 13th century designs, giving Reims an unusual unity of style.

Unusually the names of the cathedral's original architects are known. A labyrinth built into floor of the nave at the time of construction or shortly after (similar to examples at Chartres and Amiens) included the names of four master masons (Jean d'Orbais, Jean-Le-Loup, Gaucher de Reims and Bernard de Soissons) and the number of years they worked there, though art historians still disagree over who was responsible for which parts of the building. The labyrinth itself was destroyed in 1779 but its details and inscriptions are known from 18th century drawings. The clear association here between a labyrinth and master masons adds weight to the argument that such patterns were an allusion to the emerging status of the architect (through their association with the mythical artificer Daedalus, who built the Labyrinth of King Minos). The cathedral also contains further evidence of the rising status of the architect in the tomb of Hugues Libergier (d. 1268, architect of the now-destroyed Reims church of St-Nicaise). Not only is he given the honor of an engraved slab; he is shown holding a miniature model of his church (an honor formerly reserved for noble donors) and wearing the academic garb befitting an intellectual.

The towers, 81 m tall, were originally designed to rise 120m. The south tower holds just two great bells; one of them, named “Charlotte” by Charles, Cardinal of Lorraine in 1570, weighs more than 10,000 kg.

During the Hundred Years' War the cathedral was under siege by the English from 1359 to 1360. After it fell the English held Reims and the Cathedral until 1429 when it was liberated by Joan of Arc which allowed the Dauphin Charles to be crowned king on 17 July 1429.

In 1875 the French National Assembly voted £80,000 for repairs of the façade and balustrades. The façade is the finest portion of the building, and one of the great masterpieces of the Middle Ages.

German shellfire during the opening engagements of the First World War on 20 September 1914 burned, damaged and destroyed important parts of the cathedral. Scaffolding around the north tower caught fire, spreading the blaze to all parts of the carpentry superstructure. The lead of the roofs melted and poured through the stone gargoyles, destroying in turn the bishop's palace. Images of the cathedral in ruins were used during the war as propaganda images by the French against the Germans and their deliberate destruction of buildings rich in national and cultural heritage. Restoration work began in 1919, under the direction of Henri Deneux, a native of Reims and chief architect of the Monuments Historiques; the cathedral was fully reopened in 1938, thanks in part to financial support from the Rockefellers, but work has been steadily going on since.

Exterior

The three portals are laden with statues and statuettes; among European cathedrals, only Chartres has more sculpted figures. The central portal, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, is surmounted by a rose window framed in an arch itself decorated with statuary, in place of the usual sculptured tympanum. The 'gallery of the kings' above shows the baptism of Clovis in the centre flanked by statues of his successors.

The facades of the transepts are also decorated with sculptures. That on the North has statues of bishops of Reims, a representation of the Last Judgment and a figure of Jesus (le Beau Dieu), while that on the south side has a modern rose window with the prophets and apostles. Fire destroyed the roof and the spires in 1481: of the four towers that flanked the transepts, nothing remains above the height of the roof. Above the choir rises an elegant lead-covered timber bell tower that is 18 m tall, reconstructed in the 15th century and in the 1920s.

Interior

The interior comprises a nave with aisles, transepts with aisles, a choir with double aisles, and an apse with ambulatory and radiating chapels. It has interesting stained glass ranging from the 13th to the 20th century. The rose window over the main portal and the gallery beneath are of rare magnificence.

The cathedral possesses fine tapestries. Of these the most important series is that presented by Robert de Lenoncourt, archbishop under François I (1515-1547), representing the life of the Virgin. They are now to be seen in the former bishop's palace, the Palace of Tau. The north transept contains a fine organ in a flamboyant Gothic case. The choir clock is ornamented with curious mechanical figures. Marc Chagall designed the stained glass installed in 1974 in the axis of the apse.

The treasury, kept in the Palace of Tau, includes many precious objects, among which is the Sainte Ampoule, or holy flask, the successor of the ancient one that contained the oil with which French kings were anointed, which was broken during the French Revolution, a fragment of which the present Ampoule contains.

Notre-Dame de Reims cathedral, the former Abbey of Saint-Remi, and the Palace of Tau were added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1991.