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 ...
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 ...
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 ...
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

Porta Nigra

The Porta Nigra (Latin for black gate) is the largest Roman city gate north of the Alps. It is designated as part of the Roman Monuments, Cathedral of St. Peter and Church of Our Lady in Trier UNESCO World Heritage Site. The name Porta Nigra originated in the Middle Ages due to the darkened colour of its stone; the original Roman name has not been preserved. Locals commonly refer to the Porta Nigra simply as Porta.

The Porta Nigra was built in grey sandstone between 186 and 200 AD. The original gate consisted of two four-storied towers, projecting as near semicircles on the outer side. A narrow courtyard separated the two gate openings on either side. For unknown reasons, however, the construction of the gate remained unfinished. For example, the stones at the northern (outer) side of the gate were never abraded, and the protruding stones would have made it impossible to install movable gates. Nonetheless, the gate was used for several centuries until the end of the Roman era in Trier.

In Roman times, the Porta Nigra was part of a system of four city gates, one of which stood at each side of the roughly rectangular Roman city. The Porta Nigra guarded the northern entry to the Roman city, while the Porta Alba (White Gate) was built in the east, the Porta Media (Middle Gate) in the south, and the Porta Inclyta (Famous Gate) in the west, next to the Roman bridge across the Moselle. The gates stood at the ends of the two main streets of the Roman Trier, one of which led north-south and the other east-west. Of these gates, only the Porta Nigra still exists today.

In the early Middle Ages the Roman city gates were no longer used for their original function and their stones were taken and reused for other buildings. Also iron and lead braces were broken out of the walls of the Porta Nigra for reuse. Traces of this destruction are still clearly visible on the north side of the gate.

After 1028, the Greek monk Simeon lived as a hermit in the ruins of the Porta Nigra. After his death (1035) and sanctification, the Simeonstift monastery was built next to the Porta Nigra to honor him. Saving it from further destruction, the Porta Nigra was transformed into a church: The inner court of the gate was roofed and intermediate ceilings were inserted. The two middle storeys of the former gate were converted into church naves: the upper storey being for the monks and the lower storey for the general public. The ground floor with the large gates was sealed, and a large outside staircase was constructed alongside the south side (the town side) of the gate, up to the lower storey of the church. A small staircase led further up to the upper storey. The church rooms were accessible through former windows of the western tower of the Porta Nigra that were enlarged to become entrance doors (still visible today). The top floor of the western tower was used as church tower, the eastern tower was leveled, and an apse added at its east side. An additional gate - the much smaller Simeon Gate - was built adjacent to the East side of the Porta Nigra and served as a city gate in medieval times.

In 1802 Napoleon Bonaparte dissolved the church in the Porta Nigra and the monastery beside it, along with the vast majority of Trier"s numerous churches and monasteries. On his visit to Trier in 1804, Napoleon ordered that the Porta Nigra be converted back to its Roman form. Only the apse was kept; but the eastern tower was not rebuilt to its original height. Local legend has it that Napoleon originally wanted to completely tear down the church, but locals convinced him that the church had actually been a Gaulish festival hall before being turned into a church. Another version of the story is that they told him about its Roman origins, persuading him to convert the gate back to its original form.

In 1986 the Porta Nigra was designated a World Heritage Site, along with other Roman monuments in Trier and its surroundings. The modern appearance of the Porta Nigra goes back almost unchanged to the reconstruction ordered by Napoleon. At the south side of the Porta Nigra, remains of Roman columns line the last 100 m of the street leading to the gate. Positioned where they had stood in Roman times, they give a slight impression of the aspect of the original Roman street that was lined with colonnades. The Porta Nigra, including the upper floors, is open to visitors.