Before the current Avaldsnes church was constructed, there was a wooden church on the same site. That church is assumed to have been built by Olav Trygvason, and it is possible that the present stone church is built around this church originally.
The current church has been a landmark for seafarers passing through the strait of Karmsund for 750 years. King Håkon IV Håkonsson gave permission to build a church around the year 1250. It was not completed until nearly 1320, and was then the fourth largest in the country. The church was dedicated to St. Olav and received the status of 'Royal Chapel'. During the same period it became one of four 'college-churches' (it appointed a council of theological and juridical scholars). Probably there was a group of four scholars and teachers in law and theology. There could be there was an octagonal house of stone in close proximity to the quire. Chapter Houses (Kapittelhus) were common for English cathedrals. This is assumed to have been referenced by clergyman and historical writer Peder Clausen Friis in 1599. Remaining walls were visible as late as 1840, but are now completely gone.
The history of the church depicts a fine cross-section of Norway's history. Being one of the largest churches along the coast of Norway, it is certain to have been visited by many travelers on their pilgrimage to St. Olav's shrine in Trondheim.
Decay started with the Black Death in 1349–1351. This disaster was followed by 400 years of Danish supremacy. In this period, the church gradually fell into a state of ruin due to lack of repair. In the 17th century a little wooden church was built inside the stone walls. This one was used for more than 200 years.
The first restoration work began in 1830. The old steeple was demolished, the nave was rebuilt, and a small wooden steeple was erected on the top. In the 1920s the church was once again restored in a manner which was more similar to its original architecture. A new stone steeple was built and the interior renewed.
The German occupation in World War II became dramatic for the church. The Germans asserted that the high steeple was used as a landmark for allied planes, coming in over the strait of Karmsund to drop bombs in the water. German authorities demanded the steeple be demolished. Many people were engaged in the task of saving it, and they persuaded the Germans to let them camouflage the whole church with timber. This was to be done in 5 weeks, but the whole job lasted a year.The 700th anniversary of the church in 1950 was a big event for the community, with concerts and a historical outdoor play which pictured the Viking history of the place.
The stained glass windows were ordered for the anniversary. They were made by Bernhard Greve, a Norwegian painter, and present the most important events in the life of Christ : Baptism, passion, ascension and resurrection.
The pointed arches, but thick walls and no pillars, suggest an early Gothic design. The walls are composed of ordinary gray stone in thickness about 1.2–2.0 meters. The corners and frames around the doors and windows are of steatite (soapstone) from Tolgetjønn near Haugesund.References:
Situated in the basement of Metropol Parasol, Antiquarium is a modern, well-presented archaeological museum with sections of ruins visible through glass partitions, and underfoot along walkways.
These Roman and Moorish remains, dating from the first century BC to the 12th century AD, were discovered when the area was being excavated to build a car park in 2003. It was decided to incorporate them into the new Metropol Parasol development, with huge mushroom-shaped shades covering a market, restaurants and concert space.
There are 11 areas of remains: seven houses with mosaic floors, columns and wells; fish salting vats; and various streets. The best is Casa de la Columna (5th century AD), a large house with pillared patio featuring marble pedestals, surrounded by a wonderful mosaic floor – look out for the laurel wreath (used by emperors to symbolise military victory and glory) and diadem (similar meaning, used by athletes), both popular designs in the latter part of the Roman Empire. You can make out where the triclinium (dining room) was, and its smaller, second patio, the Patio de Oceano.
The symbol of the Antiquarium, the kissing birds, can be seen at the centre of a large mosaic which has been reconstructed on the wall of the museum. The other major mosaic is of Medusa, the god with hair of snakes, laid out on the floor. Look out for the elaborate drinking vessel at the corners of the mosaic floor of Casa de Baco (Bacchus’ house, god of wine).