Norway – Trondhjem Cathedral, The Grandest Church In Scandinavia

This certainly is a magnificent church. The patriotic and devout enthusiasm that accomplished its restoration have good grounds for satisfaction now. The building material is a bluish soapstone, from quarries near the town, and marble, from an island above, off the west coast, in striking contrast to the timber churches common in the small towns.

It was in the latter half of the eleventh century that King Olaf Kyrre began the present church, as a shrine to hold the relics of Saint Olaf. That south transept (seen at the right of the tower), and the Chapter House at this side, are restorations of parts that the church authorities built late in the twelfth century. The choir (extending towards us eastward from the tower), and that beautiful apse at its eastern end, are restorations of portions built about seven hundred years ago, at a time when European towns were vieing with each other in the magnificence of their church edifices. The nave at the farther side of the tower, which we do not see from here, was of still later construction, about the middle of the fourteenth century. The church is altogether over two hundred feet long.

The relics of Saint Olaf used to be treasured in the apse, and for centuries the shrine was famous all over Europe for its miracles. The sick and the sorrowing flocked here ; the devout came in throngs, and the curious and the thrifty followed after, as they always do to any such place. The result was that Trondhjem town, or Nidar-os, as it was then called, became populous and rich, too, through the generous expenditure of money by wealthy visitors. Tradition says the place grew until there were fourteen other churches besides this, and five flourishing monasteries, the latter being maintained largely as inns for pilgrims. But, strangely enough, all that order of things came to an end, after a series of heavy disasters. In 1328 there was a great fire, which destroyed most of the choir. In 1432 the church was struck by lightning. In 1531 another fire reduced part of the church and most of the town to ruins. The State adoption of Protestantism in 1537 put an end to the public veneration of Saint Olaf’s relics, and consequently to the pilgrimages, which had been of great commercial benefit to the town. The silver reliquary of the royal saint was carried off to Copenhagen, and nobody now knows just what finally became of the bones that were said to have worked so many marvels of healing. During part of the eighteenth century political assemblies were held in that south transept. The other churches and the monasteries, sharing the fate of secular structures in various widespread conflagrations, were not rebuilt under the new ecclesiastical dispensation. One hundred years ago the town itself had dwindled to less than 8,000 population.

The new prosperity of Trondhjem has an entirely different basis, being industrial and commercial. The thirty-five thousand people who live here are well-to-do property owners, or thrifty wage-earners, and they have contributed generously toward the restoration of the stately and splendid old house of worship, though financial responsibility for the undertaking was shared by the whole country. The work of restoration was begun in 1868, and has been prosecuted continuously since 1872. When the west nave is completed, this venerable monument will appear in the antique splendor which marked its completion in about 1300.

Worship here is, of course, according to the Lutheran faith and ritual.* The altar before which King Haakon and Queen Maud knelt during the solemn service of coronation (June, 1906), is beneath the low octagonal tower at this end of the cathedral.

This churchyard is a favorite resort of the townspeople on summer Saturday afternoons, when they come to put flowers on the graves, and on Sundays after morning service.

During the rest of our journey, we shall use map 1, which shows the entire kingdom, though on a smaller scale. Let us turn to that map now and re-fresh our memory of the long reach of the coast from Trondhjem up to the North Cape, as compared with the distance from Trondhjem down to Christiania.

When we were at Bergen, and again at Aalesund, we saw many reminders of the great fish industries. We are now to see one of the island ports from which the fishermen go out. Away up within the Arctic circle, in latitude a little beyond 68°, a long, irregular cluster of submerged mountains forms an island chain, known as the Lofotens. There are several fishing stations on those islands, where steamers call, and one of the most important is where we see the figures 93 and 94, enclosed in a red circle.