Monasteries in Norway

Nonneseter Abbey Chapel

Nonneseter Abbey is first recorded by name in 1262, but certainly founded many years earlier, possibly in or about 1150. It was dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The nuns apparently belonged to the Cistercian Order, although this is not confirmed until as late as 1494. It seems probable that a hospital run by the nuns, documented in 1411, was the forerunner of the later St. George"s (Sankt Jørgens) lepers" ho ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Bergen, Norway

Utstein Abbey

Utstein Abbey is Norway's best-preserved medieval monastery. The abbey, dedicated to Saint Laurence, was founded in its present location during the reign of King Magnus VI of Norway (1263–1280). It was a house of Augustinian Canons. It appears however that this community was the one previously established as St. Olav's Abbey, Stavanger, one of the earliest Augustinian monasteries in Norway if not the very earliest: the ...
Founded: 1263-1280 | Location: Mosterøy, Norway

St. Olav's Abbey Ruins

The Premonstratensian canons founded the monastery, dedicated to Saint Olav, in Tønsberg in the second half of the 12th century, possibly in or shortly before 1191. The church was completed by 1207, as is confirmed by the record of a burial there in that year. This was a very wealthy establishment with considerable influence in the affairs of its time. It was nevertheless unable to resist secularisation in 1532 dur ...
Founded: c. 1190 | Location: Tønsberg, Norway

Hovedøya Abbey Ruins

Hovedøya Abbey was a Cistercian founded on 18 May 1147 by monks from Kirkstead Abbey in England on Hovedøya island, and dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint Edmund. A church dedicated to Edmund already stood on the island, and the monks took this over as the abbey church, modifying it to meet Cistercian requirements. The rest of the monastery follow a modified Cistercian building plan, to take into account a s ...
Founded: 1147 | Location: Oslo, Norway

Tautra Abbey Ruins

Tautra Abbey was a Cistercian monastery founded in 1207 by monks from Lyse Abbey near Bergen. The site was an attractive one, and the earlier foundation of Munkeby Abbey seems to have been transferred here shortly after the foundation of this house. The abbey grew wealthy and powerful, and its abbots often played a major part in Norwegian politics. Tautra Abbey was dissolved during the Reformation in Scandinavia in 1537, ...
Founded: 1207 | Location: Tautra, Norway

Halsnøy Abbey Ruins

Halsnøy Abbey was a house of Augustinian Canons located on the island of Halsnøy. The monastery is believed to have been founded in 1163 or 1164 by the jarl Erling Skakke, as an inducement to Archbishop Øystein to crown Erling"s seven-year-old son, Magnus Erlingsson, as King of Norway. The new foundation attracted many generous endowments and soon became one of the wealthiest in Norway. The buil ...
Founded: 1163-1164 | Location: Halsnøy, Norway

Lyse Abbey Ruins

Lyse Abbey was founded in 1146 by Sigurd, Bishop of Bergen, on farmland that he owned, as the Christianisation of Norway was nearing completion. The first monks were brought from Fountains Abbey in Yorkshire, England. This was the first Cistercian monastery in Norway and was modelled on others built in England and France. As with all Cistercians, the monks took a vow of poverty. Renouncing all sources of income except fr ...
Founded: 1146 | Location: Os, Norway

Selje Abbey Ruins

Selje Abbey was founded in about 1100 and was dedicated to Saint Alban. At the time of the abbey's foundation the island of Selje was an important Christian site. It was the location of the original shrine of Saint Sunniva, who was believed to have been martyred here, and for that reason was a place of pilgrimage, and also the seat of a bishopric and a cathedral dedicated to Saint Michael, established about 1070. The bish ...
Founded: c. 1100 | Location: Selje, Norway

Munkeby Abbey Ruins

Munkeby Abbey was founded sometime between 1150 and 1180, and was the most northerly Cistercian foundation in the world. Possibly, like Hovedøya Abbey and Lyse Abbey, Munkeby"s foundation was carried out by English monks. In 1207, Tautra Abbey was founded, and, either then or at some later point in the 13th century the community and assets of Munkeby were transferred to the new foundation, of which Munkeby the ...
Founded: 1150-1180 | Location: Levanger, Norway

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Hagios Demetrios

The Church of Saint Demetrius, or Hagios Demetrios, is the main sanctuary dedicated to Saint Demetrius, the patron saint of Thessaloniki. It is part of the site Palaeochristian and Byzantine Monuments of Thessaloniki on the list of World Heritage Sites by UNESCO since 1988.

The first church on the spot was constructed in the early 4th century AD, replacing a Roman bath. A century later, a prefect named Leontios replaced the small oratory with a larger, three-aisled basilica. Repeatedly gutted by fires, the church eventually was reconstructed as a five-aisled basilica in 629–634. This was the surviving form of the church much as it is today. The most important shrine in the city, it was probably larger than the local cathedral. The historic location of the latter is now unknown.

The church had an unusual shrine called the ciborium, a hexagonal, roofed structure at one side of the nave. It was made of or covered with silver. The structure had doors and inside was a couch or bed. Unusually, it did not hold any physical relics of the saint. The ciborium seems to have been a symbolic tomb. It was rebuilt at least once.

The basilica is famous for six extant mosaic panels, dated to the period between the latest reconstruction and the inauguration of the Byzantine Iconoclasm in 730. These mosaics depict St. Demetrius with officials responsible for the restoration of the church (called the founders, ktetors) and with children. An inscription below one of the images glorifies heaven for saving the people of Thessalonica from a pagan Slavic raid in 615.

Thessaloniki became part of the Ottoman Empire in 1430. About 60 years later, during the reign of Bayezid II, the church was converted into a mosque, known as the Kasımiye Camii after the local Ottoman mayor, Cezeri Kasım Pasha. The symbolic tomb however was kept open for Christian veneration. Other magnificent mosaics, recorded as covering the church interior, were lost either during the four centuries when it functioned as a mosque (1493–1912) or in the Great Thessaloniki Fire of 1917 that destroyed much of the city. It also destroyed the roof and upper walls of the church. Black-and-white photographs and good watercolour versions give an idea of the early Byzantine craftsmanship lost during the fire.

Following the Great Fire of 1917, it took decades to restore the church. Tombstones from the city"s Jewish cemetery - destroyed by the Greek and Nazi German authorities - were used as building materials in these restoration efforts in the 1940s. Archeological excavations conducted in the 1930s and 1940s revealed interesting artifacts that may be seen in a museum situated inside the church"s crypt. The excavations also uncovered the ruins of a Roman bath, where St. Demetrius was said to have been held prisoner and executed. A Roman well was also discovered. Scholars believe this is where soldiers dropped the body of St. Demetrius after his execution. After restoration, the church was reconsecrated in 1949.