Hvaler church is probably one of the oldest in Norway. According carbon dating methods on wood samples analyzed in 1960 it was originally built between 920 and 1080 AD. The current church nave dates mainly from the 12-13th centuries. Archeologists carried out extensive excavations during the restoration from 1953 to 1956. They discoverede there was a fireplace under the foundations dating from the age between 120 BC and 80 AD. There may have been a prehistoric pagan site of worship on the church site. Archeologists also found 804 coins under the choir floor. While many originate from Norway, some are from Germany, Denmark, and Sweden. Most of the coins date from the Middle Ages, the oldest is from 1130.
Hvaler church was privately owned from 1724 and became as a municipal property in 1860. The Renaissance style pulpit is from 1620. During its renovation in 1734, Andreas Schavenius, who later owned the church from 1759 to 1778, gave and mounted the canopy and Rococo ornaments. The limestone baptismal font dates from 1250-1300.
The Rococo style altar is from about 1750 and given by Andreas Schavenius. Featured on the altarpiece from 1759 is Eggert Munch's oil painting of the crucifixion. On the altar are two large brass candlesticks probably originating from Holland about 1600.References:
The Abbey of Saint-Etienne, also known as Abbaye aux Hommes ('Men"s Abbey'), is a former monastery dedicated to Saint Stephen (Saint Étienne). It is considered, along with the neighbouring Abbaye aux Dames ('Ladies" Abbey'), to be one of the most notable Romanesque buildings in Normandy. Like all the major abbeys in Normandy, it was Benedictine.
Lanfranc, before being an Archbishop of Canterbury, was abbot of Saint-Etienne. Built in Caen stone during the 11th century, the two semi-completed churches stood for many decades in competition. An important feature added to both churches in about 1120 was the ribbed vault, used for the first time in France. The two abbey churches are considered forerunners of the Gothic architecture. The original Romanesque apse was replaced in 1166 by an early Gothic chevet, complete with rosette windows and flying buttresses. Nine towers and spires were added in the 13th century. The interior vaulting shows a similar progression, beginning with early sexpartite vaulting (using circular ribs) in the nave and progressing to quadipartite vaults (using pointed ribs) in the sanctuary.
The two monasteries were finally donated by William the Conqueror and his wife, Matilda of Flanders, as penalty for their marriage against the Pope"s ruling. William was buried here; Matilda was buried in the Abbaye aux Dames. Unfortunately William"s original tombstone of black marble, the same kind as Matilda"s in the Abbaye aux Dames, was destroyed by the Calvinist iconoclasts in the 16th century and his bones scattered.
As a consequence of the Wars of Religion, the high lantern tower in the middle of the church collapsed and was never rebuilt. The Benedictine abbey was suppressed during the French Revolution and the abbey church became a parish church. From 1804 to 1961, the abbey buildings accommodated a prestigious high school, the Lycée Malherbe. During the Normandy Landings in 1944, inhabitants of Caen found refuge in the church; on the rooftop there was a red cross, made with blood on a sheet, to show that it was a hospital (to avoid bombings).