Nidaros Cathedral: The Symbol of a Nation

Nidarosdomen (Nidaros Cathedral) stands tall and proud near the mouth of the Nidelva river in Trondheim, Norway. It owes its name to Trondheim’s medieval town which was called after the river: ‘Nid’ and ‘os’ (meaning river mouth). Nidarosdomen has all the stats to impress (biggest this, oldest that, and most ‘northernest’) but that is not what makes this Cathedral so interesting. Even though Nidarosdomen has been a national icon since medieval times, it did not grow into its full stature until the early 80s.

Nidarosdomen makes no claim of ‘authenticity’ and in fact openly admits that most of the appearance of the Cathedral did not ‘appear’ until the 19th century. However, it can not be overlooked that Nidarosdomen is a symbol of the great restoration of Norway.

Below: Constructional development of the north-east side including the octagon presbytery.


St. Olav Haroldsson (995-1030), previously known as King Olav the Fat, is considered to be the last force to convert Norway from paganism to Christianity. A fierce Viking, St Olav was converted and baptised to Christianity in Normandy while fighting the Danes. He returned and made himself king of Norway and went about the land converting the people (mostly at sword point). He was dethroned by the Danes in 1028 and died trying to regain his Kingship at the Battle of Stiklestad in 1030. His body was buried in secrecy in Trondheim. A year after St. Olav’s death, he was declared a Saint. A small chapel was built over the original burial site and his remains are known to be placed in a secret location somewhere in the Cathedral – to this day it is still a mystery as to where.

Largely due to his canonisation, St Olav is considered to have brought the hearts of the people together as one nation. The Nidaros wooden chapel was soon replaced by a small stone Cathedral and was dedicated to the Holy Trinity and became known as Christchurch. Pilgrims would make the long journey up to Trondheim to worship in the shrine of their beloved Saint. In the early 1200s, a Nidaros Archbishop Øystein Erlendsson was forced to flee to England for challenging King Sverre’s misuse of the church. While there he learnt about new ideas in architecture and when he returned to Nidaros three years later (after reconciling with the King) he commissioned a new construction program for Nidarosdomen that built the famous octagon presbytery which still stands today.

Below: Constructional development of the west front.


Over half a century, the Cathedral was destroyed by six fires. The Church occasionally rebuilt but only to maintain functionality – many parts were left in ruins. In the 1531 fire, the church withheld rebuilding – the Reformation was coming. The Church wanted to save what little money they had left rather than restoring the Cathedral only to have the Protestants take over. After the 1719 fire from a lightening strike, the Protestants rebuilt the top of the octagon with a Baroque dome. Nidarosdomen maintained a modest appearance until the 19th century.

In the build up to national independence, plans were drawn (pictured above: Christies 1885) to not only restore Nidarosdomen to its former medieval glory but to build a new magnificent west front that would stand as a symbol of Norwegian pride and identity. In 1983 the last statue was put in place to complete the legacy of Nidaros Cathedral.

To read more about the construction of the Nidaros Cathedral visit Nidarosdomen: step by step history.

This is part one of a three part series on Nidaros Cathedral. Part two is Experience Nidaros Cathedral.  Part three is Nidaros Cathedral and the Archbishop’s Palace.

Funny Talk

In learning Norwegian you are bound to make some very funny mistakes. Like the time I said that I teach ‘all you can eat Cha Cha’ or when I whispered to Moose ‘I love me.’

One time I asked my brother-in-law at dinner what he did for a living. He replied ‘I’m eating potato’. Everyone laughed. Instead, I actually asked ‘what are you doing right now?’

Moose has become my magic eight ball as my Norwegian often requires a lot of guessing: ‘Will I go to the shops?’, ‘Did I wake up tonight?’ and ‘Am I hungry?’

Sometimes I speak Yoda: ‘Small he was.’, Hungry you are? Eat you must.’, ‘Go I shall.’

Last week I sent an ad into the newspaper that read: ‘All are welcome – and all the others are 30 kroner’.

When I first came to Norway I was attempting to do the banking all by myself in Norwegian. Moose was teaching me to say ‘Hendene i været! Dette er et ran. Gi meg alle pengene.’ I learnt the line down-pat, but on the side of Moose’s mouth I saw some mischief so I got suspicious. His plot was revealed – can you imagine me going up to a bank teller and saying in Norwegian ‘Put your hands up. This is a stick up. Give me all your money!’

But we always have a good laugh at my expense. The bloopers and misunderstandings are all a part of learning the language. And besides, I don’t mind still being considered ‘cute’ at my age.


Halloween Lights


A wonderful green light filled the sky over Kvaløya island on Halloween night.

Halloween Thriller

Every year our family and friends get together in Tromsø for a Halloween party. This time the kids, big and small, made a scary music video to Michael Jackson’s Thriller. Costumes, make-up, lighting, howling and growling, and ghoul-dancing made the night extra fun. Below are some stills of the video.


Quick Links

Tourist & Travel



  • Parenting in Norway
  • Having a Baby in Norway
  • The Cost of Living
  • Norwegian Name Days
  • How Vikings Changed the English Language
  • Norwegian Flower Show
  • Fårikål

Norwegian Lessons

  • Learn Norwegian - Introduction Series
  • Norwegian Lessons Series
  • Learn Norwegian Podcast Series

About My Little Norway | Contact | Disclaimer

© 2008-2009 My Little Norway | Theme by Moose | Log in | Powered by WordPress.

144,448 spam blocked by WP-SpamFree