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Nidarosdomen – Nidaros Cathedral

Nidaros Cathedral is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Norway. It boasts a textured Medieval history that began with the adventures of St Olav, the fierce Viking who was converted to Christianity and became King of Norway. The Cathedral has been under construction from the early ten hundreds and was only completed in 1983 with the last statue finding place in the west wall.

Nidaros Cathedral has stood the test of time through Norway’s modern history, surviving many fires, the Reformation, standing through both Danish and Swedish rule, Norwegian Independence, two World Wars and the rest of the 20th century. Many generations of workers have laboured to keep and preserve this national symbol. Nidarosdomen has certainly won the hearts of the people.

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Nidaros Cathedral has many points of interest for those who love history, art, music and mystery. The Altar of the Holy Cross, the High Altar and St. Olav altar-front are just some of the religious artefacts you can see inside the Cathedral.

Music is a centre piece at the Cathedral with both the Steinmeyer and Wagner organs. Concerts and galas are a regular feature and on Saturdays the Cathedral hosts a Music Service at 1pm. The Cathedral has five resident choirs including an all female Gregorian choir.

The architecture will have enthusiasts looking up for hours as the decoration both inside and out is very interesting and amusing. One of the many relics found in the east end is a Russian Icon. Famous for anonymity, the piece was a special gift from Commercial Counsellor R. Zeiner-Henriksen. The origin of the piece is only for suggestion but its curious art work has earnt it the name “the Saviour with the wet beard”.

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In the church crypt you can view special headstones that were discovered during an excavation inside the Cathedral during the 1800s. St Olav is said to have been buried where the High Alter now stands. In the early history of the Church, many notable persons were buried in and around Nidarosdomen to be close to their Saint. These excavated headstones are the oldest portraits of known persons in Norway.

Nidaros Cathedral is the birthplace of Nordic Kings. In 1163, the King promised that his crown and the crowns of all his successors would be kept in Christchurch, Nidarosdomen, for ‘the eternal honour of God and St. Olav’. Even in the 1814 Norwegian constitution it is stated that Christchurch is the place dedicated to the Coronation of Kings. However, since Norway regained Independence in 1905, King Haakon is the first and last King in modern Norway to be Crowned. The Article on crowing was removed from the Constitution in 1908 – at the request of the King himself. Now a blessing ceremony is performed by the Archbishop of Christchurch for the next King and Queen of Norway with their crowns resting on each side of the High Altar.

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Erkebispegården – The Archbishop’s Palace

The Archbishop’s Palace is on the south side of Nidarosdomen, and just like the Cathedral, has gone through many structural changes and restorations.

In the Middle Ages, the Archbishop’s Palace was a religious and political centre. It was designed to be a self sufficient Keep complete with stables and workshops, armoury and mint.

After the Reformation, the palace was turned into a Military base for the King’s Lord Lieutenants and was (temporarily) renamed ‘The King’s Manor’.

From the outside the Archbishop’s Palace just looks like a brick wall but inside its size truly fills its big names.

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In the 1990s a major restoration was completed and the Archbishop’s Palace became part of the Nidarosdomen Museum complex. The complex includes the Archbishop’s Hall and private quarters and holds a display of the history and artefacts of Nidarosdomen and Trondheim. A new Military Museum houses Norway’s military history from ancient through to modern times. The palace is also the home for the Norwegian Crown Regalia which is in the west wing. The courtyard is an entrance to the museums and is often used for festivals and concerts. On the Nidarosdomen website you can see a panorama of the palace from the court yard.

Nidarosdomen is a place that deserves time to look, sit and observe. While in Trondheim I visited the Cathedral three times throughout my stay and was never disappointed. However, everyday I was able to view Nidarosdomen from a far in different spots around the city. Just like the Norwegian seasons, the mood of Nidaros changes. The outside appearance shifts in the Norwegian light and the inside is affected by tone and melody. Nidarosdomen is a joy to visit.

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For Tourists

Nidarosdomen is open all year. There are various State Church services in the Cathedral throughout the day and week, as well as Anglican Church and German Church services. The opening hours change with the seasons so make sure you check the website: www.nidarosdomen.no During peak season (May-Sep 15th) there is an entry fee to all attractions at Nidarosdomen.

The Saint Olav Festival, a festival of church and culture, is held near the end of July/beginning of August, every year. The courtyard and city comes alive with theatre, markets, acrobatics and concerts throughout the two weeks.

The very new Trondheim Stone Carving festival will be held 17-19 July 2009. The website is just up, but if it is anything like the ice carving competitions in Alta, it will be a fantastic day!

This is the last in a three part series on Nidaros Cathedral. Part one is Nidaros Cathedral: The Symbol of a Nation. Part two is Experience Nidaros Cathedral.