Medieval churches in Norway

Sørbø Church

Sørbø Church was built around 1130. It had a tower in the Middle Ages, but it was demolished in 1883-1884.
Founded: 1130 | Location: Rennesøy, Norway

Idd Church

Idd church was built around the year 1100. It was badly damaged in an earthquake on Sunday, 23 October 1904. The earthquake occurred in the middle of church time, and the church was full of people, but no one was injured. In 1922 it was fully restored.
Founded: c. 1100 | Location: Halden, Norway

Lade Church

Lade Church is believed to be one of Norway"s oldest stone churches. It is unknown when when it was exactly built, but people started using it around 1190. The current church is assumed to be the successor of two other churches, which are believed to have been one stone church and one stave church. During the wars with Sweden and later during World War II, the church was used as a food stock. There is actually a swas ...
Founded: c. 1190 | Location: Trondheim, Norway

Høyjord Stave Church

Høyjord stave church was built in the end of the 11th century. The church was later removed once and rebuilt. Last reconstruction was completed in 1950. The church is also the only stave church which is left in the county of Vestfold.The church is one of two preserved churches having a pillar or post in the middle. In addition tho this central post there are 12 staves, all of which supports the building. Each stave ...
Founded: c. 1190 | Location: Andebu, Norway

Nesodden Church

Nesodden Church was built between 1136 - 1180 and restored in 1870 and 1956-1960. The font is medieval, pulpit represents Renaissance style and altarpiece was made in 1715.
Founded: 1136-1180 | Location: Nesodden, Norway

Grip Stave Church

Grip Stave Church is one of Norway's smallest churches (it is only 12m long and 6,5m wide). The church was built in about 1470 at the island's highest point. The church is of the Møre type, being structurally similar to the larger Kvernes and Rødven stave churches. Because of the barren nature of the island, there is no cemetery on the church grounds, and bodies had to be buried elsewhere, in the cemetery of Bremsnes Ch ...
Founded: c. 1470 | Location: Smøla, Norway

Haslum Church

Haslum church was built in c. 1190 in Romanesque style. It is possible that it was built by Cistercian monks who also built Halvard Cathedral in Oslo. The original long nave was altered to cross shape in the 1200s. In 1300 there were 12 altars in the church. Haslum church was reconstructed in 1853 and restored to the medieval appearance in 1924. The wooden statues of the Virgin Mary and the Bishop are copies of medieval ...
Founded: 1190 | Location: Bærum, Norway

Haug Church

Haug Church was originally built in 1152 and it consisted of tower, nave and choir. The church was destroyed by fire in 1818 and rebuilt. There is a private tomb of Jørgen von Cappelen (1761) in the church tower.
Founded: 1152 | Location: Hokksund, Norway

Hedenstad Church

Hedenstad Church was built in the 12th century and restored in 1889. The tower dates from 1782. Between 1723-1856 it was privately owned. The interior dates mainly from the 1800s.
Founded: 12th century | Location: Skollenborg, Norway

Fjære Church

Fjære church was built of stone in c. 1150. The most valuable detail is a finely sculpted head of a man in stone over the south door, dating from before 1150. The church's unique and beautiful baptismal font, in the High Gothic style from the Middle Ages. Olavskilden, a fountain associated with St. Olav the Holy. The Terje Vigen stone monument in memory of the brave men of the 1807–1814 war. The stone monument was erec ...
Founded: 1150 | Location: Grimstad, Norway

Ski Church

Ski Church was built around 1150. Originally it consisted of nave and choir, but the church was enlarged later. The bells date from 1668 and 1871. The major restoration took place in 1934-1935.
Founded: 1150 | Location: Ski, Norway

Dolm Church

Dolm church was made of white stone church and originally built in 1188. It was built in the Romanesque style with rounded arches and thick stone walls. The church has burned down many times, most recently in 1920. The church was rebuilt again during the 1920s, but the new Hitra church was built across the strait in Melandsjøen in 1927 and it became the new main church for the parish.
Founded: 1188 | Location: Hitra, Norway

Eidfjord Old Church

Eidfjord Old Church was built in 1309. The story tells of a domineering and powerful Rich-Ragna who built the church to pay for her sins. The interior is mainly from the 17th and 18th century. The pulpit was made in 1613 and font in 1680.
Founded: 1309 | Location: Eidfjord, Norway

Løvøya Chapel

Løvøya chapel was built at some time between 1223-1398. The chapel was dedicated to St. Halvard and St. Martin. Its form is known from Orkney and Man islands with a nave and chancel built together. Also the circular light openings in gable walls are typical to this church architecture. After the Reformation in 1536 Løvøya chapel was left to decay for centuries. In 1882 the ruins were restored and in 1950 Løvøya Chap ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Horten, Norway

Flesberg Stave Church

Flesberg stave church was probably built around 1200. The first written reference to the church is from 1359. The church was originally a single nave church with four free-standing internal posts bearing a raised central roof, surrounded by an ambulatory or aisles on all four sides. It had a narrower chancel, also with a raised central roof, and a semicircular apse. It was surrounded by a gallery loosely connected to the ...
Founded: c. 1200 | Location: Flesberg, Norway

Kapitelberget Church Ruins

Kapitelberget ruined church is the foremost reminder of the powerful Dags family in Skien. It was a crypt church, one of the only four similar churches in Norway. Kapitelberget was built as a private chapel by Dag Eilivsson in the 12th century. It may have been destroyed when Bratsberg farm burned in 1156. The church was situated on the highest point in the vicinity of Skien at the top of the range of hills to the east o ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Skien, Norway

Våle Church

Våle church was built around the year 1190 probably by the craftsmen from Denmark and Germany. It represents the Romanesque style with round arches in windows and portals. The two major restorations were made in 1683 and 1747. The baptismal font is made of Gotland limestone in Middle Ages. The altarpiece dates from 1650.
Founded: 1190 | Location: Våle, Norway

Berg Church

Berg Church was built in the 12th century. The pulpit from 1592 is today in the Norsk Folkemuseum in Oslo. The church has a baptismal font made of Gotland soapstone aound 1150.
Founded: 12th century | Location: Halden, Norway

Fana Church

Fana Church history is long and complicated. Historians assert that the church has been rebuilt and enlarged several times. Fana Church was mentioned in writings for the first time in 1228, when Pope Gregory IX released a conscription to the vicar and brothers at 'the holy cross church and hospital in Fana'. Parts of the existing church building are from the Romanesque age, and the walls show signs of there havi ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Fana, Norway

Hegge Stave Church

The first recorded reference to the Hegge stave church is from 1327. Dendrochronological dating of some of the logs in the church, however, indicates that the church was built around 1216. It is a basilica type church with 8 free-standing interior columns forming an arcade, surrounding a central area with a raised roof. A runic inscription on the church reads: Erling Arnson wrote these runes. The lower story of the bell ...
Founded: c. 1216 | Location: Øystre Slidr, Norway

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Quimper Cathedral

From 1239, Raynaud, the Bishop of Quimper, decided on the building of a new chancel destined to replace that of the Romanesque era. He therefore started, in the far west, the construction of a great Gothic cathedral which would inspire cathedral reconstructions in the Ile de France and would in turn become a place of experimentation from where would later appear ideas adopted by the whole of lower Brittany. The date of 1239 marks the Bishop’s decision and does not imply an immediate start to construction. Observation of the pillar profiles, their bases, the canopies, the fitting of the ribbed vaults of the ambulatory or the alignment of the bays leads us to believe, however, that the construction was spread out over time.

The four circular pillars mark the start of the building site, but the four following adopt a lozenge-shaped layout which could indicate a change of project manager. The clumsiness of the vaulted archways of the north ambulatory, the start of the ribbed vaults at the height of the south ambulatory or the choice of the vaults descending in spoke-form from the semi-circle which allows the connection of the axis chapel to the choir – despite the manifest problems of alignment – conveys the hesitancy and diverse influences in the first phase of works which spread out until the start of the 14th century.

At the same time as this facade was built (to which were added the north and south gates) the building of the nave started in the east and would finish by 1460. The nave is made up of six bays with one at the level of the facade towers and flanked by double aisles – one wide and one narrow (split into side chapels) – in an extension of the choir arrangements.

The choir presents four right-hand bays with ambulatory and side chapels. It is extended towards the east of 3-sided chevet which opens onto a semi-circle composed of five chapels and an apsidal chapel of two bays and a flat chevet consecrated to Our Lady.

The three-level elevation with arches, triforium and galleries seems more uniform and expresses anglo-Norman influence in the thickness of the walls (Norman passageway at the gallery level) or the decorative style (heavy mouldings, decorative frieze under the triforium). This building site would have to have been overseen in one shot. Undoubtedly interrupted by the war of Succession (1341-1364) it draws to a close with the building of the lierne vaults (1410) and the fitting of stained-glass windows. Bishop Bertrand de Rosmadec and Duke Jean V, whose coat of arms would decorate these vaults, finished the chancel before starting on the building of the facade and the nave.

Isolated from its environment in the 19th century, the cathedral was – on the contrary – originally very linked to its surroundings. Its site and the orientation of the facade determined traffic flow in the town. Its positioning close to the south walls resulted in particuliarities such as the transfer of the side gates on to the north and south facades of the towers: the southern portal of Saint Catherine served the bishop’s gate and the hospital located on the left bank (the current Préfecture) and the north gate was the baptismal porch – a true parish porch with its benches and alcoves for the Apostles’ statues turned towards the town, completed by an ossuary (1514).

The west porch finds its natural place between the two towers. The entire aesthetic of these three gates springs from the Flamboyant era: trefoil, curly kale, finials, large gables which cut into the mouldings and balustrades. Pinnacles and recesses embellish the buttresses whilst an entire bestiary appears: monsters, dogs, mysterious figures, gargoyles, and with them a whole imaginary world promoting a religious and political programme. Even though most of the saints statues have disappeared an armorial survives which makes the doors of the cathedral one of the most beautiful heraldic pages imaginable: ducal ermine, the Montfort lion, Duchess Jeanne of France’s coat of arms side by side with the arms of the Cornouaille barons with their helmets and crests. One can imagine the impact of this sculpted decor with the colour and gilding which originally completed it.

At the start of the 16th century the construction of the spires was being prepared when building was interrupted, undoubtedly for financial reasons. Small conical roofs were therefore placed on top of the towers. The following centuries were essentially devoted to putting furnishings in place (funeral monuments, altars, statues, organs, pulpit). Note the fire which destroyed the spire of the transept cross in 1620 as well as the ransacking of the cathedral in 1793 when nearly all the furnishings disappeared in a « bonfire of the saints ».

The 19th century would therefore inherit an almost finished but mutilated building and would devote itself to its renovation according to the tastes and theories of the day.