Nidaros Cathedral

Trondheim, Norway

Nidaros Cathedral is the most important Christian cathedral in Norway. It was built over the burial site of Saint Olaf, the king of Norway in the 11th century, who became the patron saint of the nation. It is the traditional location for the consecration of the King of Norway and the northernmost medieval cathedral in the world.

Nidaros Cathedral was built beginning in 1070 to memorialize the burial place of Olaf II of Norway, the king who was killed in 1030 in the Battle of Stiklestad. He was canonized as Saint Olaf a year later by the bishop of Nidaros (which was later confirmed by the pope). It was designated the cathedral of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Nidaros from its establishment in 1152 until its abolition in 1537 under the Reformation. Work on the cathedral as a memorial to St. Olaf started in 1070. It was finished some time around 1300, nearly 150 years after being established as the cathedral of the diocese. The cathedral was badly damaged by fires in 1327 and again in 1531.

The nave west of the transept was destroyed and was not rebuilt until the restoration in early 1900s. In 1708 the church burned down completely except for the stone walls. It was struck by lightning in 1719, and was again ravaged by fire. Major rebuilding and restoration of the cathedral started in 1869, initially led by architect Heinrich Ernst Schirmer, and nearly completed by Christian Christie. It was officially completed in 2001. Maintenance of the cathedral is an ongoing process.

The oldest parts of the cathedral consist of the octagon with its surrounding ambulatory. This was the site of the original high altar, with the reliquary casket of St. Olav, and choir. Design of the octagon may have been inspired by the Corona of Canterbury Cathedral, although octagonal shrines have a long history in Christian architecture. Similarly, the choir shows English influence, and appears to have been modeled after the Angel Choir of Lincoln Cathedral.

It is joined to the octagon by a stone screen that fills the entire east side of the choir. The principal arch of this screen is subdivided into three subsidiary arches: the central arch frames a statue of Christ the Teacher, standing on the top of a central arch of three subsidiary arches below him. The space above the principal arch, corresponding to the vault of the choir, contains a crucifix by the Norwegian sculptor Gustav Vigeland, placed between statues of the Virgin Mary and the Apostle John. Built into the north side of the ambulatory is a small well. A bucket could be lowered to draw up water drawn from the spring that originated from St. Olav's original burial place. (This was covered over by the construction of later cathedrals).

The present cathedral has two principal altars. At the east end of the chancel in the octagon is an altar at the site of the medieval high altar, which bore the silver reliquary casket containing the remains of St. Olav. He was the church's and the kingdom's patron saint. The current altar was designed to recall in marble sculpture the essential form of this reliquary casket. It replaces the previous baroque altar, which was transferred to Vår Frue Church.

The second altar is in the crossing, where the transept intersects the nave and the chancel. It bears a large modern silver crucifix. It was commissioned and paid for by Norwegian American emigrants in the early twentieth century, and the design was inspired by the memory of a similar silver crucifix in the medieval church. The medieval chapter house may also be used as a chapel for smaller groups of worshipers.

All the stained glass in the cathedral dates from its rebuilding in the 19th and 20th centuries. The windows on the north side of the church depict scenes from the Old Testament against a blue background, while those on the south side of the church depict scenes from the New Testament against a red background.

The old Baroque organ built by Johann Joachim Wagner in 1738-1740 was carefully restored by Jürgen Ahrend between 1993-1994. It has 30 stops and is located at a gallery in the north transept.

Since the Reformation, Nidaros Cathedral has served as the cathedral of the Lutheran bishops of Trondheim (or Nidaros) in the Diocese of Nidaros. Today, the cathedral is a popular tourist attraction. Tourists often follow the historical pilgrim routes to visit the spectacular church.

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Founded: 1070-1300
Category: Religious sites in Norway

Rating

4.6/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Nick Glidden (20 months ago)
Went to a Christmas service here, absolutely amazing. It is currently having some restoration and it looks fantastic. I have never seen an organ that big!!! Its an absolute must if visiting trondheim.
Lisa Laverick (2 years ago)
Beautiful gothic cathedral with amazing little rooms to explore and art in secret little places. We had the pleasure of being able to go to a Christmas organ recital on Christmas Eve. Fabulous acoustics.
Ina G (2 years ago)
Iconic architectural masterpiece in the centre of the town. For best views and scenic landscape shots - cross to the other side of the river.
Beth Ives-Noble (2 years ago)
A truly beautiful Cathedral. The history of it over the years is amazing. So very glad I took the time to see and walk through it.
Kenneth Høidal (2 years ago)
Beautiful cathedral. Amazing window paintings. Great organs (yes, two). Sacred atmosphere. Long history of pilgrimage, and the story of St. Olav's final resting place is fascinating. Well worth visit!
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