Monasteries in 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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.