Medieval churches in Norway

Giske Church

Giske Church was built of white marble in the 12th century. The origin of the marble is unclear, but it was brought to the island by boat. Where it came from before that is unknown. Today the walls are covered by chalk on the outside and plaster on the inside, so that the marble is only visible in a few places, all on the outside. The architectural style is Norman. The church was originally a family chapel consisting of ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Giske, Norway

Reinli Stave Church

The Reinli Stave Church was built some time during the 14th century. It is the third church at the same location in Reinli. The first references made to a church at this location comes from Olaf Haraldsson who travelled through Valdres in 1023, and also visited Reinli. It is believed that there was a pagan temple at the same location before the first church, some time before 1000. Through radiocarbon dating, logs in the ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Reinli, Norway

Hol Old Church

Hol Old Church (Hol gamle kirke) is presumed to date from the 13th century, but the exact dating is unknown. The church is the oldest parish in Hol and is first mentioned in a letter from 1328 as a small stave church with covered side porches. The church has been expanded several times, in the 16th century, in 1697 and in 1798-99. It was rebuilt in 1888 and 1938. It is believed that the floor of the church was made using ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Hol, Norway

Ullensvang Church

Ullensvang Church was built in the 13th century and has been remodeled and expanded several times over the centuries. The present church seats about 430 people. Colloquially, the church is known as the Hardanger Cathedral due to its size, history, and central location in the Hardanger region of the county. The area of Ullensvang is named after the old pagan god Ullin. Ullensvang is thus an old name. It is reasonable that ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Ullensvang, Norway

Rollag Stave Church

Rollag Stave Church was probably originally built in second half of the 12th century, though not much is left of the original church. Originally, the church has been a simple church with a rectangular nave. It was first mentioned in written sources in 1425. It was rebuilt around 1660 into a cruciform church. Around 1760, an additional lining wall was placed on top of the structure and the church was extended to the west.
Founded: c. 1150 | Location: Rollag, Norway

Leikanger Church

Leikanger Church was originally built of stone in ca. 1250. Two towers and the porch were added in the 1600s. In 1872 the interior was replaced almost completely, the porch was demolished and tower replaced with a new one. The pulpit and altar date from the early 1600s.
Founded: 1250 | Location: Leikanger, Norway

St. Olav's Church Ruins

St. Olav"s Church stone church was built before 1150 and probably Telemark"s largest stone church in former times. It had a number of unusual building features, including lektorium and a separate room for earthly values, which today is called 'Mary"s Chapel'. Probably the church was the main church in Grenland, a kind of 'county church' and therefore had the highest status of all churche ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Bamble, Norway

Stiklestad Church

Stiklestad Church was built at the site of the Battle of Stiklestad and completed in 1180. During the battle in 1030, St. Olaf received three severe wounds—in the knee, in the neck, and the final mortal blow through the heart—and died leaning against a large stone. The church building is assumed to have been erected on the exact spot where St. Olaf was killed during that battle and that stone is supposedly sti ...
Founded: 1180 | Location: Verdal, Norway

Lomen Stave Church

Lomen stave church was built in the second half of the 12th century. Through dendrochronological dating the church has been dated to 1179, but the first reference in written sources is not until 1325 and 1334, at that time as 'Hvams kirke'. The church was rebuilt and enlarged in 1779. The church is supported by 4 columns, and has three lavishly carved portals, chancel-arches and column capitals. During the last ...
Founded: c. 1179 | Location: Lomen, Norway

Spangereid Church

Spangereid church is a beautiful medieval church from c. 1100. The church was originally a Romanesque long church, and the oldest part is made of stone. In the 1830s the church was modified and extended, which means that the current structure is a cruciform church.
Founded: c. 1100 | Location: Lindesnes, Norway

Oddernes Church

Oddernes Church is the oldest building in Kristiansand from c. 1040. It was originally built of stone and the tower was later made of wood. The chancel has rubble walls and a semi-circular apse. In the 1630s the church was extended by 8 meters after a gift of funds from King Christian IV in connection with a visit in 1635. The money was used for major repairs in the years 1642-1644 and in 1699 for constructing the bell to ...
Founded: c. 1040 | Location: Kristiansand, Norway

Hurum Church

Hurum Church dates from c. 1150. The pulpit was a gift from the wife of naval hero, Ivar Huitfeldt. This is the location of the family Huitfeldt tomb which dates from 1750. Several coins from the 13th century were found from the church during the archaeological excavation in 1972.
Founded: c. 1150 | Location: Klokkarstua, Norway

Nes Church Ruins

Nes Church was built originally in the 1100s and has been enlarged several times. It was burned down in the war against Swedish in 1567 and rebuilt later. In 1697 it was transformed to cross shape. Nes church was destroyed by lightning in 1854. The restoration began in 1924. The altarpiece, font and pulpit survived from fire and were located to new Nes church in 1860s.
Founded: 12th century | Location: Nes, Norway

Seljord Church

Seljord church was built between 1150-1180 in early Romanesque style. It is dedicated to St. Olav and restored in 1971. The church has fine items, including the oldest altarpiece made after the Reformation. It is probably painted in Germany in 1588. The font is from the 1600s as well as mural paintings.
Founded: 1150-1180 | Location: Seljord, Norway

Nore Stave Church

Dendrochronological dating of wood samples indicate that Nore stave church was built after 1167. The church was built with galleries, a chancel and cross naves - an architectural style that was unique in Europe during the Middle Ages. This style is called the Nummedals-type. The church also has a central mast, that was originally the support for a tower, mostly likely containing church bells. The walls and ceiling of the ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Nore og Uvdal, Norway

Stange Church

The current Stange Church dates from c. 1250. It was enlarged and the sacristy added in 1703. The interior was renewed mainly in the 1600s after the church was badly damaged by fire in 1620. The pulpit dates from 1630 and beautiful altar from 1652.
Founded: c. 1250 | Location: Stange, Norway

Stødle Church

Stødle Church was built originally in 1160 and restored in 1650, 1879 and 1958. It was the private chapel of Erling Skakke (1115–1179), who was a famous Norwegian Earl. The church bells date from the Middle Ages.
Founded: 1160 | Location: Etne, Norway

Sola Church Ruins

The current Sola church is built on the ruins of an early 12th century Romanesque stone church. The old church was in use until 1842 , when it began to decay. Painter Johan Bennetter bought the church ruins in 1871 and converted it into a private residence with studio. In 1907 the family moved into a new house that was built in the garden. The basement of this house is preserved southwest of the church ruins. Large sectio ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Sola, Norway

Hove Church

Hove Church was built around the year 1170. Historians believe it was built by a great man who belonged to the very upper echelon within the Norwegian aristocracy. They say he had built this as a private chapel. It"s a small church with seating for only about 35 people. Peter Andreas Blix was an architect who bought the run down church in 1880, and he restored the church from 1883-1888. Blix"s goal was to finis ...
Founded: 1170 | Location: Vik i Sogn, Norway

Skoger Old Church

Skoger Old Church was built of stone probably between 1192 and 1220. the major restoration was made in the late 1620s. The pulpit, altar and galleries date from the 17th century. In 1754 Skoger church was sold to local peasants. The new church was completed in 1885 and the old one was no longer used for worships. The latest restorations were made in the late 1900s and today the church is used in summertime.
Founded: 1192-1220 | Location: Drammen, Norway

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Porta Nigra

The Porta Nigra (Latin for black gate) is the largest Roman city gate north of the Alps. It is designated as part of the Roman Monuments, Cathedral of St. Peter and Church of Our Lady in Trier UNESCO World Heritage Site. The name Porta Nigra originated in the Middle Ages due to the darkened colour of its stone; the original Roman name has not been preserved. Locals commonly refer to the Porta Nigra simply as Porta.

The Porta Nigra was built in grey sandstone between 186 and 200 AD. The original gate consisted of two four-storied towers, projecting as near semicircles on the outer side. A narrow courtyard separated the two gate openings on either side. For unknown reasons, however, the construction of the gate remained unfinished. For example, the stones at the northern (outer) side of the gate were never abraded, and the protruding stones would have made it impossible to install movable gates. Nonetheless, the gate was used for several centuries until the end of the Roman era in Trier.

In Roman times, the Porta Nigra was part of a system of four city gates, one of which stood at each side of the roughly rectangular Roman city. The Porta Nigra guarded the northern entry to the Roman city, while the Porta Alba (White Gate) was built in the east, the Porta Media (Middle Gate) in the south, and the Porta Inclyta (Famous Gate) in the west, next to the Roman bridge across the Moselle. The gates stood at the ends of the two main streets of the Roman Trier, one of which led north-south and the other east-west. Of these gates, only the Porta Nigra still exists today.

In the early Middle Ages the Roman city gates were no longer used for their original function and their stones were taken and reused for other buildings. Also iron and lead braces were broken out of the walls of the Porta Nigra for reuse. Traces of this destruction are still clearly visible on the north side of the gate.

After 1028, the Greek monk Simeon lived as a hermit in the ruins of the Porta Nigra. After his death (1035) and sanctification, the Simeonstift monastery was built next to the Porta Nigra to honor him. Saving it from further destruction, the Porta Nigra was transformed into a church: The inner court of the gate was roofed and intermediate ceilings were inserted. The two middle storeys of the former gate were converted into church naves: the upper storey being for the monks and the lower storey for the general public. The ground floor with the large gates was sealed, and a large outside staircase was constructed alongside the south side (the town side) of the gate, up to the lower storey of the church. A small staircase led further up to the upper storey. The church rooms were accessible through former windows of the western tower of the Porta Nigra that were enlarged to become entrance doors (still visible today). The top floor of the western tower was used as church tower, the eastern tower was leveled, and an apse added at its east side. An additional gate - the much smaller Simeon Gate - was built adjacent to the East side of the Porta Nigra and served as a city gate in medieval times.

In 1802 Napoleon Bonaparte dissolved the church in the Porta Nigra and the monastery beside it, along with the vast majority of Trier"s numerous churches and monasteries. On his visit to Trier in 1804, Napoleon ordered that the Porta Nigra be converted back to its Roman form. Only the apse was kept; but the eastern tower was not rebuilt to its original height. Local legend has it that Napoleon originally wanted to completely tear down the church, but locals convinced him that the church had actually been a Gaulish festival hall before being turned into a church. Another version of the story is that they told him about its Roman origins, persuading him to convert the gate back to its original form.

In 1986 the Porta Nigra was designated a World Heritage Site, along with other Roman monuments in Trier and its surroundings. The modern appearance of the Porta Nigra goes back almost unchanged to the reconstruction ordered by Napoleon. At the south side of the Porta Nigra, remains of Roman columns line the last 100 m of the street leading to the gate. Positioned where they had stood in Roman times, they give a slight impression of the aspect of the original Roman street that was lined with colonnades. The Porta Nigra, including the upper floors, is open to visitors.