Medieval churches in 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

Skjeberg Church

Skjeberg church was built around 1100 and the Gothic entrance portal was added later. The Romanesque baptismal font is on of the finest in Norway with reliefs depicting Christ with Apostles.
Founded: c. 1100 | Location: Skjeberg, Norway

Skiptvet Church

Skiptvet church is a medieval stone church built around 1150-1200. It was restored and expanded after damaged by fire in 1762. The pulpit and altarpiece were also added then.
Founded: 12th century | Location: Skiptvet, Norway

Steigen Church

The Steigen stone church was originally built around the year 1250, and it has since been renovated and expanded several times. In the 17th century the church was damaged several times by storms and lightning. The interior was changed in the late 1800s when it was restored. The chandelier dates from 1684. Between 1963-1965 the church was restored to the medieval appearance. The present church seats about 400 people.
Founded: c. 1250 | Location: Steigen, Norway

Old Edøy Church

Old Edøy Church was built around the year 1190. It has had numerous renovations over the years to enlarge it and repair it. After several hundred years of use, it was too small and old to continue as the main church for the parish, so it was decided to build a new Edøy Church. The new church would be built to the north, on the island of Smøla instead of the more isolated location of the old church on the small island o ...
Founded: 1190 | Location: Smøla, 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

Lørenskog Church

Lørenskog Church was probably built in 1150-1250. There is a sculpture of St. Lawrence from the 1100s. The altarpiece dates from 1647 and pulpit from 1658.
Founded: 1150-1250 | Location: Lørenskog, Norway

Røyken Church

The first written record of the Røyken Church is in Eysteinn Erlendsson"s 'Red Book' in 1392. The church was however built already in 1229. It has a rectangular nave with stone walls that are around 2 meters thick. The altarpiece dates from the 1600s.
Founded: 1229 | Location: Røyken, Norway

Holdhus Church

Holdhus Church was originally built in 1306 and enlarged in 1725 and 1836. The most valuable item in the church is a Madonna sculpture, made of limestone in 1450s. The pulpit dates from 1570.
Founded: 1306 | Location: Eikelandsosen, Norway

Vassås Church

Vassås Church was built around 1200 and enlarged in 1846.
Founded: c. 1200 | Location: Hof, Norway

Nykirke

Nykirke ('new church') was built around 1200. It was restored in 1880, 1848 and 1953.
Founded: c. 1200 | Location: Nykirke, Norway

Skaun Church

Skaun Church was built in 1183. There are some medieval frescoes survived. The pulpit was designed by Ole Bildsnider in 1665. The Baroque altarpiece dates from 1773.
Founded: 1183 | Location: Skaun, 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 church ...
Founded: c. 1130 | Location: Gildeskål, Norway

Søndeled Church

Søndeled Church was built around 1150 and restored in 1752, 1768 and 1921-1924. In 1752 it was bought by locals, enlarged and the tower was erected. The altar was made by Ole Nielsen Weierholt in 1788. The old altarpiece painting from c. 1650 is still located in the nave. The pulpit was carved in the 1800s.
Founded: 1150 | Location: Søndeled, Norway

Dybvåg Church

Dypvåg Church dates from the early 1200s. The choir was demolished and reconstructed in the 1700s and the major restoration took place in 1921. The interior is rich and well-preserved. The font is original from c. 1200.
Founded: c. 1200 | Location: Tvedestrand, Norway

Kviteseid Old Church

Kviteseid old church dates from c. 1260 and it has about 200 seats. The church is built in the Romanesque style. Dendrochronological analysis have revealed there may have been a wooden church already in the 1100s. The church has a special roof and ceiling with 20 fields painted by Thomas Blixus in 1714. The altarpiece dates from 1732. The church was restored in 1929 and 1969.
Founded: c. 1260 | Location: Kviteseid, Norway

Vanse Church

Vanse Church is probably one of the oldest churches in Norway; it originates most likely from 1037. In 1848 it was extended to become a cross church, and visiting church musicians often refer to it as a cathedral. The church was struck by fire in 1872, but was completely restored in 1875. The altarpiece was painted in 1866 by G. H. Lammers. The church is built of stone with chalk plaster, and with its 1100 seats, it is th ...
Founded: 1037 | Location: Vanse, Norway

Hobøl Church

Hobøl Church is considered to be one of Norway"s best preserved medieval churches. The church was built in granite in Romanesque style at the end of the 12th century (around 1175). The baptismal font with granite basin and steatite base dates from medieval times and is probably as old as the church itself. The altarpiece dates from c. 1600 and pulpit was a gift from Adrian Busch in 1602 and is made ​R ...
Founded: c. 1175 | Location: Hobøl, Norway

Hvaler Church

Hvaler church is probably one of the oldest in Norway. According carbon dating methods on wood samples analyzed in 1960 it was originally built between 920 and 1080 AD. The current church nave dates mainly from the 12-13th centuries. Archeologists carried out extensive excavations during the restoration from 1953 to 1956. They discoverede there was a fireplace under the foundations dating from the age between 120 BC and 8 ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Skjærhalden, 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

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.