Nonneseter Abbey Chapel

Bergen, Norway

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' hospital.

In 1507 the nuns were ejected for immoral and unseemly behavior and the buildings were transferred to the Hospital Brothers of St. Anthony, but the monastery was secularized in 1528, and the premises were converted into a private fortified residence, under the name of Lungegården, by the new proprietor, Vincens Lunge.

The surviving buildings were mostly destroyed by a fire in 1891, and of the monastic buildings there remains nothing to be seen. Of the abbey church there survived the base of the west tower, and the Nonneseter Chapel, originally the south chapel off the choir, which were acquired in 1891 after the fire by the Society for the Preservation of Ancient Norwegian Monuments.

The single story that is left of the west tower, the Tårnfoten ('tower foot'), is near the present Bergen public library, and measures 8.6 meters square. It was originally clad with dressed stone. In the west wall is a portal with a round arch, and in the east wall another, which would have connected to the body of the church. It is now used as a memorial chapel to the fallen of World War II.

The Romanesque tower foot is more old-fashioned in style than the body of the main church apparently was, indicating the possibility that it could have belonged to an older structure predating the arrival of the Cistercians with their characteristic building style.

The church lay to the east of the tower. The original building was quite small, but it seems to have been extended eastwards in the later 13th century with a new choir and choir chapels; it had a single aisle. The graveyard was to the north of the church, and the monastic buildings to the south, but there are too few remains of them to establish the exact layout.

The Nonneseter Chapel (Nonneseter kapell) at Kaigaten 3 is believed to have been one of the choir chapels. It measures about 8 meters by 7 meters, and contains a vaulted ceiling and Gothic arched windows. It dates from around 1250, which seems to be when the church was extended. Between 1951 and 1989 it was used as a church for deaf people. It is now used, among other ways, as a concert hall.

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Kaigaten 1B, Bergen, Norway
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Founded: 12th century
Category: Religious sites in Norway

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