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 still insid ...
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

Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte

The Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte is a baroque French château built between 1658-1661 for Nicolas Fouquet. It was made for Marquis de Belle Île, Viscount of Melun and Vaux, the superintendent of finances of Louis XIV, the château was an influential work of architecture in mid-17th century Europe. At Vaux-le-Vicomte, the architect Louis Le Vau, the landscape architect André le Nôtre, and the painter-decorator Charles Le Brun worked together on a large-scale project for the first time. Their collaboration marked the beginning of the 'Louis XIV style' combining architecture, interior design and landscape design. The garden's pronounced visual axis is an example of this style.

To secure the necessary grounds for the elaborate plans for Vaux-le-Vicomte’s garden and castle, Fouquet purchased and demolished three villages. The displaced villagers were then employed in the upkeep and maintenance of the gardens. It was said to have employed eighteen thousand workers and cost as much as 16 million livres. The château and its patron became for a short time a focus for fine feasts, literature and arts. The poet La Fontaine and the playwright Molière were among the artists close to Fouquet. At the inauguration of Vaux-le-Vicomte, a Molière play was performed, along with a dinner event organized by François Vatel, and an impressive firework show.

After Fouquet was arrested and imprisoned for life, and his wife exiled, Vaux-le-Vicomte was placed under sequestration. The king seized, confiscated or purchased 120 tapestries, the statues, and all the orange trees from Vaux-le-Vicomte. He then sent the team of artists (Le Vau, Le Nôtre and Le Brun) to design what would be a much larger project than Vaux-le-Vicomte, the palace and gardens of Versailles.

The Marshal Villars became the new owner without first seeing the chateau. In 1764, the Marshal's son sold the estate to the Duke of Praslin, whose descendants would maintain the property for over a century. It is sometimes mistakenly reported that the château was the scene of a murder in 1847, when duke Charles de Choiseul-Praslin, killed his wife in her bedroom, but this did not happen at Vaux-le-Vicomte but at the Paris residence of the Duke.

In 1875, after thirty years of neglect, the estate was sold to Alfred Sommier in a public auction. The château was empty, some of the outbuildings had fallen into ruin, and the famous gardens were totally overgrown. The huge task of restoration and refurbishment began under the direction of the architect Gabriel-Hippolyte Destailleur, assisted by the landscape architect Elie Lainé. When Sommier died in 1908, the château and the gardens had recovered their original appearance. His son, Edme Sommier, and his daughter-in-law completed the task. Today, his descendants continue to preserve the château, which remains privately owned by Patrice and Cristina de Vogüé, the Count and Countess de Vogüé. It is now administered by their three sons Alexandre, Jean-Charles and Ascanio de Vogüé. Recognized by the state as a monument historique, it is open to the public regularly.

Architecture

The chateau is situated near the northern end of a 1.5-km long north-south axis with the entrance front facing north. Its elevations are perfectly symmetrical to either side of this axis. Somewhat surprisingly the interior plan is also nearly completely symmetrical with few differences between the eastern and western halves. The two rooms in the center, the entrance vestibule to the north and the oval salon to the south, were originally an open-air loggia, dividing the chateau into two distinct sections. The interior decoration of these two rooms was therefore more typical of an outdoor setting. Three sets of three arches, those on the entrance front, three more between the vestibule and the salon, and the three leading from the salon to the garden are all aligned and permitted the arriving visitor to see through to the central axis of the garden even before entering the chateau. The exterior arches could be closed with iron gates, and only later were they filled in with glass doors and the interior arches with mirrored doors. Since the loggia divided the building into two halves, there are two symmetrical staircases on either side of it, rather than a single staircase. The rooms in the eastern half of the house were intended for the use of the king, those in the western were for Fouquet. The provision of a suite of rooms for the king was normal practice in aristocratic houses of the time, since the king travelled frequently.

Another surprising feature of the plan is the thickness of the main body of the building (corps de logis), which consists of two rows of rooms running east and west. Traditionally the middle of the corps de logis of French chateaux consisted of a single row of rooms. Double-thick corps de logis had already been used in hôtels particuliers in Paris, including Le Vau's Hôtel Tambonneau, but Vaux was the first chateau to incorporate this change. Even more unusual, the main rooms are all on the ground floor rather than the first floor (the traditional piano nobile). This accounts for the lack of a grand staircase or a gallery, standard elements of most contemporary chateaux. Also noteworthy are corridors in the basement and on the first floor which run the length of house providing privacy to the rooms they access. Up to the middle of the 17th century, corridors were essentially unknown. Another feature of the plan, the four pavilions, one at each corner of the building, is more conventional.

Vaux-le-Vicomte was originally planned to be constructed in brick and stone, but after the mid-century, as the middle classes began to imitate this style, aristocratic circles began using stone exclusively. Rather late in the design process, Fouquet and Le Vau switched to stone, a decision that may have been influenced by the use of stone at François Mansart's Château de Maisons. The service buildings flanking the large avant-cour to the north of the house remained in brick and stone, and other structures preceding them were in rubble-stone and plaster, a social ranking of building materials that would be common in France for a considerable length of time thereafter.

The main chateau is constructed entirely on a moated platform, reached via two bridges, both aligned with the central axis and placed on the north and south sides. The moat is a picturesque holdover from medieval fortified residences, and is again a feature that Le Vau may have borrowed from Maisons. The moat at Vaux may also have been inspired by the previous chateau on the site, which Le Vau's work replaced.

Gardens

The château rises on an elevated platform in the middle of the woods and marks the border between unequal spaces, each treated in a different way. This effect is more distinctive today, as the woodlands are mature, than it was in the seventeenth century when the site had been farmland, and the plantations were new.

Le Nôtre's garden was the dominant structure of the great complex, stretching nearly a mile and a half (3 km), with a balanced composition of water basins and canals contained in stone curbs, fountains, gravel walks, and patterned parterres that remains more coherent than the vast display Le Nôtre was to create at Versailles.

Le Nôtre created a magnificent scene to be viewed from the house, using the laws of perspective. Le Notre used the natural terrain to his advantage. He placed the canal at the lowest part of the complex, thus hiding it from the main perspectival point of view. Past the canal, the garden ascends a large open lawn and ends with the Hercules column added in the 19th century. Shrubberies provided a picture frame to the garden that also served as a stage for royal fêtes.

From the top of the grand staircase, this gives the impression that the entire garden is revealed in one single glance. Initially, the view consists of symmetrical rows of shrubbery, avenues, fountains, statues, flowers and other pieces developed to imitate nature – these elements exemplify the Baroque desire to mold nature to fit its wishes, thus using nature to imitate nature. The centerpiece is a large reflecting pool flanked by grottos holding statues in their many niches. The grand sloping lawn is not visible until one begins to explore the garden, when the viewer is made aware of the optical elements involved and discovers that the garden is much larger than it looks.