Medieval churches in Norway

Hamar Cathedral Ruins

Bishop Arnaldur (1124-52) returned to Norway in 1150 from Gardar, Greenland and was appointed first Bishop of Hamar. He began to build the cathedral, which was completed about the time of Bishop Paul (1232-52). Bishop Thorfinn of Hamar (1278-82) was exiled and died at Ter Doest in Flanders. Thorfinn and many other bishops of the area disagreed with the sitting King Eric II of Norway regarding a number of issues, including ...
Founded: 1150 | Location: Hamar, Norway

Kvinnherad Church

Kvinnherad Church was built around 1250 and restored in 1670 and 1913. It was probably the main church for the region in the Middle Ages, but in 1678 it became a private church for the baron of the Barony Rosendal, and was not parish church again until 1910. The church has a rectangular nave and choir, is little changed since the Middle Ages. All of the Gothic portals and windows are kept, which are relatively rare. The w ...
Founded: 1250 | Location: Kvinnherad, 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

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

Sem Church

Sem Church was built in the 1100s as a parish church for the royal Sem Manor (Sem hovedgård). It has been restored and altered several times, 1690, 1770, 1924, 1955 and 1959. Near the church is a small burial chapel Det wedelske gravkapell for the noble family of Jarlsberg Manor. The pulpit dates from 1592 and altar from the 17th century.
Founded: 12th century | Location: Tønsberg, Norway

Tingvoll Church

Tingvoll Church is one of the few remaining old stone churches that was built in Norway. There is some uncertainty as to when it was actually constructed, but records indicate it was between 1150 and 1200. The church is 32 metres long and the steeple and spire (added in 1787) is 36 metres tall. The 1.8-metre thick walls have corridors inside, both on the south side and on the north side. The corridors lead to steep stairs ...
Founded: 1150-1200 | Location: Tingvoll, Norway

Ørland Church

Ørland Church was built in 1342 out of stone. The 60cm thick walls are whitewashed stone. None of the original furnishings remain, but the walls are original.
Founded: 1342 | Location: Ørland, Norway

Sande Church

Sande Church was built in Romanesque style between 1066-1093. The baptismal font dates from the 1100s.
Founded: 1066-1093 | Location: Sande i Vestfold, Norway

Old Gildeskål Church

Old Gildeskål stone church was built around the year 1130. In 1851, a new law was passed that said that all rural churches had to be able to fit at least 30% of the parish members in the church building. Since this church could only seat about 130 people, it was too small, therefore a new church had to be built for the parish. It was decided that the new church would be built on the same site, just west of the old c ...
Founded: c. 1130 | Location: Gildeskål, Norway

Follebu Church

Follebu Church was built in Gothic style between 1260 and 1300 and it was first time documented in 1305. The sacristy was added in 1868 and porch in 1872. There is a medieval stone font and crucifix, altarpiece dates from 1743 and pulpit from 1770.
Founded: 1260-1300 | Location: Follebu, 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

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

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

Sauherad Church

Sauherad Church is a stone long church built in Romanesque style in the 12th century. The church is known for a fresco in the chancel which was uncovered during restoration in 1953. The fresco, known as 'The Thousand Demons', depicts a myriad of fantastic devil faces.
Founded: 12th century | Location: Sauherad, 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

Norderhov Church

Norderhov church was originally built in c. 1170. It has been rebuilt and expanded into a cruciform church. The construction may be related to the establishment of the Diocese of Hamar in 1153. Norderhov Church has a recorded history dating to an announcement for Ringerike issued in 1298 by Duke Hakon Magnusson, who later became King Haakon V. The church is most known for it close connection with Anna Colbjørnsdatter and ...
Founded: c. 1170 | Location: Hønefoss, Norway

Trøgstad Church

Trøgstad Church was probably built in c. 1250, but is not mentioned in written sources before 1343. The tower was erected in c. 1620 and replaced with a new one in 1700. In 1904 the church was enlarged and remodeled, west wall and porch were demolished and the choir extended.
Founded: c.1250 | Location: Trøgstad, 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

Hopperstad Stave Church

Hopperstad Stave Church is assumed to have been built around 1130 and still stands at its original location. The church is owned by the Society for the Preservation of Ancient Norwegian Monuments. In 1997, a series of samples from the logs were collected for dendrochronological dating of the church. A total of seven samples produced an estimate for the construction ranging from 1034 to 1116 and resulted in no definite co ...
Founded: c. 1130 | Location: Vik, 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

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Königstein Fortress

Königstein Fortress is located on the left bank of the River Elbe. It is one of the largest hilltop fortifications in Europe. The 9.5 hectare rock plateau rises 240 metres above the Elbe and has over 50 buildings, some over 400 years old, that bear witness to the military and civilian life in the fortress. The rampart run of the fortress is 1,800 metres long with walls up to 42 metres high and steep sandstone faces. In the centre of the site is a 152.5 metre deep well, which is the deepest in Saxony and second deepest well in Europe.

The fortress, which for centuries was used as a state prison, is still intact and is now one of Saxony's foremost tourist attractions, with 700,000 visitors per year.

By far the oldest written record of a castle on the Königstein is found in a deed by King Wenceslas I of Bohemia dating to the year 1233. It is probable that there had been a stone castle on the Königstein as early as the 12th century. The oldest surviving structure today is the castle chapel built at the turn of the 13th century. In the years 1563 to 1569 the 152.5 metre deep well was bored into the rock within the castle - until that point the garrison of the Königstein had to obtain water from cisterns and by collecting rainwater.

Between 1589 and 1591/97 Prince-Elector Christian I of Saxony and his successor had the castle developed into the strongest fortification in Saxony. The hill was now surrounded with high walls. Buildings were erected, including the Gatehouse (Torhaus), the Streichwehr, the Old Barracks (Alte Kaserne), the Christiansburg (Friedrichsburg) and the Old Armoury (Altes Zeughaus). The second construction period followed from 1619 to 1681, during which the John George Bastion was built. The third construction period is seen as the time from 1694 to 1756, which included the expansion of the Old Barracks. From 1722 to 1725, at the behest of August the Strong, coopers under Böttger built the enormous Königstein Wine Barrel, the greatest wine barrel in the world, in the cellar of the Magdalenenburg which had a capacity of 249,838 litres. It cost 8,230 thalers, 18 groschen and 9 pfennigs. The butt, which was once completely filled with country wine from the Meißen vineyards, had to be removed again in 1818 due to its poor condition. Because of Böttger, Königstein Fortress is also the site where European porcelain started.

Even after the expansion during those periods of time there continued to be modifications and additions on the extensive plateau. The Treasury (Schatzhaus) was built from 1854 to 1855. After the fortress had been incorporated in 1871 into the fortification system of the new German Empire, battery ramparts were constructed from 1870 to 1895 with eight firing points, that were to have provided all-round defence for the fortress in case of an attack that, in the event, never came. This was at this time that the last major building work was done on the fortress.

Because Königstein Fortress was regarded as unconquerable, the Saxon monarchs retreated to it from Wittenberg and later Dresden during times of crisis and also deposited the state treasure and many works of art from the famous Zwinger here; it was also used as a country retreat due to its lovely surroundings.

The fortress played an important role in the History of Saxony, albeit less as a result of military action. The Saxon Dukes and Prince-Electors used the fortress primarily as a secure refuge during times of war, as a hunting lodge and maison de plaisance, but also as a dreaded state prison. Its actual military significance was rather marginal.

Since 1955 the fortress has been an open-air, military history museum of high touristic value.