Medieval churches in Norway

Ringsaker Church

Ringsaker Church was built originally in the mid-1100s. The transept was added in the 1200s and the 68m high spire in 1652 (restored in 1694). The most valuable detail in the church is the altar triptych with 127 figures. It was made in Antwerpen around 1520 by Robert Moreau. The pulpit and font represent Baroque style and were made by Lars Jensen Borg in 1704. The crucifix dates from 1683.
Founded: c. 1150 | Location: Ringsaker, Norway

Hof Church

Hof Church was built around 1150. The tower was added in 1662 and the porch in 1958. The altarpiece dates from 1637.
Founded: c. 1150 | Location: Hof, Norway

Ramnes Church

Ramnes church dates from the 1100s. The heavy stone walls are original except the northwest corner. The tower was erected in the early 1600s. The font was made in the early 1200s, altarpiece and pulpit with carved panels date from the 1600s.
Founded: 12th century | Location: Ramnes, Norway

Herøy Church

Herøy Church dates from the 12th century and represents the same Romanesque style as Dønnes and Alstahaug churches. It was probably built to the site of earlier pagan temple. The crucifix from the 1300s is today in Bergen Museum. The great chandelier dates from 1655. The altarpiece and pulpit were made in 1764.
Founded: 12th century | Location: Herøy, Norway

St. Jetmund Church

Saint Jetmund Church was built in 1150 and torn down in 1864 when it was replaced by the newly built Vanylven Church in nearby Slagnes. The stone was reused around the area in other buildings. In 1957, it was decided to rebuild the old church on its old foundations using the old plans of the church. Many of the original stones were reclaimed and reused in the new church. The new church is now a museum. The church was nam ...
Founded: 1150 | Location: Vanylven, Norway

Værnes Church

Værnes Church, the oldest building in Stjørdal, was built around 1085-1100. It was nearly started at the same time as the Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim. Under the high roofs the centuries have written their autographs. Pictures of gods and devil´s masks fight ruthlessly about the hegemony in the human soul. The dramaturgy of the Middle Age comes alive in the life- or death battle that unfolds before ou ...
Founded: 1085-1100 | Location: Stjørdal, Norway

Enebakk Church

Enebakk Church was built in 1104 and the first tower was erected in c. 1200. The current appearance dates mainly from the 1500s and the tower was also re-erected in 1551. It is the oldest wooden tower in a stone church in Norway. The font is made of soapstone in the Middle Ages. The altarpiece dates from 1608 and pulpit from 1667.
Founded: 1104 | Location: Enebakk, Norway

Skedsmo Church

Skedsmo Church was originally built in 1180, but it was enlarged and reconstructed in 1869. The church is located to the site where the first wooden church was already in 1022. The pulpit dates from 1578 and altar from 1693. The font dates from c. 1200, as well as the wooden sculpture of St. Olaf. The original sculpture is today in museum, but there is a copy in Skedsmo Church.
Founded: 1180 | Location: Skedsmo, Norway

Tromøy Church

Tromøy church was originally a Romanesque stone church built around 1150. The church was reconstructed to a cruciform church between 1748-1758, and today this fabulous church is one of Arendal's oldest sights. The church is an old seamark, and due to the unsheltered location, the church is without a tower. The interior of Tromøy church is beautiful. There are wood carvings and painted interior from the 1750s, restored i ...
Founded: 1150 | Location: Færvik, Norway

Nes Church

Nes Church was built in c. 1250 in English Gothic style. It has been restored in the 1700s and 1964.
Founded: c. 1250 | Location: Nes På Hedmark, 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

Hesby Church

Hesby stone church was built around 1250 and it was first time mentioned in written document Diplomatarium Norvegicum in 1309. The large restoration took place in 1959-1960.
Founded: c. 1250 | Location: Finnøy, Norway

Tanum Church

Tanum church was built probably in the 12th century and it has 216 seats. It was restored in 1910-1911 by the architect Haldor Børve. Tanum church containts valuable items, such as baptismal font made of Gotland sandstone from the 1250s and the Renaissance style pulpit made in 1591. The altarpiece was painted by Eilif Peterssen in the 1890s.
Founded: 12th century | Location: Larvik, Norway

Dønnes Church

Dønnes Church was built during the 1200s, probably by the order of Paul Vågaskalm (died in 1245). The chapel was added in the 1500s and tower in 1866. The church has a Madonna statue from the 1200s and St. Lawrence statue from the 1400s. The pulpit is Baroque and altarpiece from 1670.
Founded: 13th century | Location: Dønna, Norway

Eidsvoll Church

Eidsvoll church dates from c. 1200, but it has been destroyed by fire and rebuilt several times. The fine altarpiece dates from 1765, but it was also restored in 1883, 1915 and 1969.
Founded: c. 1200 | Location: Eidsvoll, Norway

Frogner Old Church

Frogner Old Church was built around 1180 and it is a small stone church with only 90 seats. It was destroyed by fire in 1918. The restoration was completed during next decades.
Founded: 1180 | Location: Sørum, 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

Andebu Church

Andebu stone church dates from the 12th century and it was dedicated to the Virgin Mary and St. Nicholas. On the south wall of the nave is a picture by the Dutchman Pieter Aertsen, painted in 1569. For many years this picture was the altarpiece in The Church of our Lady in Tønsberg. The altarpiece of Andebu church comprises three paintings framed by columns, with a larger picture of the Ascension above it, probably ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Andebu, Norway

Borre Church

It is unkown when the Borre church was built, but it probably dates from the 1100s when Oslo diocese was created. The church is built in Romanesque style. The entrance was built in the 1920s. Inside the church hung previously a three-meter high wooden cross from the 1300s.
Founded: 12th century | Location: Borre, Norway

Berg Stone Church

Berg old church was built around the year 1100. The church is built Anglo-Saxon style, with an oval nave and a smaller four-sided choir in Romanesque style. The original church was torn down in 1882, and rebuilt in 1970.The oldest object in the church is a runestone from the 12th century laid inside the church walls and a grave stone from the same period with a primitively carved crucifix. The pulpit dates from 1592.
Founded: c. 1100 | Location: Larvik, 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.