Today, Nidarosdomen (Nidaros Cathedral) is visited by 400 000 tourists a year. This year I was one of them. I visited three times in my weekend stay in Trondheim. I must say, that to really enjoy Nidaros you need to do two things – to have lots of time to look, sit and stay, and to learn about the history before you go. I was lucky to do both.
The first thing that you will see of Nidaros Cathedral is its beautiful green copper steeple. From the north you will enter a garden of old tombs and crafted monuments – cracks in the stone and moss growing on top. From the west, a wall of stone Saints and Prophets will confront you. All sides of the Cathedral are very textured and deserve a long walk around. You’ll see gargoyles and gothic arches, thick wooden doors with rusty floral art and Anglo-Norman/Romanesque bits and pieces ‘stuck on’ that intensifies your ground view. However, the outside of Nidaros Cathedral is even more intriguing when you know the history. Then, after a while, you will have go inside…
It is very dark inside the Cathedral which draws your attention to the little windows high above. But I suppose the many chandeliers would provide great light for night-time viewings. There is a main hall, open and bare, the arches towering over the little wooden chairs placed in long rows. There are hide-e-holes and various artefacts, and an outside aisle that takes you around the rim and behind the altar.
Inside Nidaros Cathedral is a feast for the eyes but only if you are a true explorer. You will get the most out of your experience if you like to notice the little things. Instead of speeding round the circuit to the ‘main attractions’, sit in a chair, stand at a window and even study the walls. There are surprises to be found everywhere…
Around the walls are stone pillars with a wreath of flowers around each. I strolled along the pillars looking at the craftsmanship and suddenly there was something staring back at me! In amongst the stone flowers was a clear stone face. I turned to see if any one else had discovered this little treasure – but they were all looking at the organ or the altar – walking straight past the pillars. I smiled to myself – I had found a secret. I walked all around the walls of the Cathedral looking at a hundred pillars or so. Every so often I was rewarded with another face – a lady, a gargoyle and even a wreath of Saints. If I had walked in, looked at the organs, looked at the altar, looked up and walked out, Nidarosdomen would have been just another Cathedral – but now it is much, much more.
I returned on Saturday for the Organ recital. Usually the Steinmeyer organ is used for playing. It was restored in 1992 which ‘ruined much of the original design and the acoustic balance’ but they say you can still hear the essence of the original tones. However, this Saturday recital was using the Wagner organ. It used to be placed as an ornament in front of the Steinmeyer but now has been restored and given a home in the north wing. It was built in 1741 by Joachim Wagner, a renown organ craftsmen that had a connection to Bach. He built the organ being inspired by Bach’s style of music. A friend and local, who has performed in the Cathedral many times, told me that not many organists like to use the Wagner because it is tuned to A minor. Even though it gives a distinct sound, apparently it is hard for organists to change key.
Unfortunately, I do not know enough about organ music to give you a real critique but the music and sound definitely affected me. It made me sit down. The distinct sound alerted my senses – the sound was odd but familiar. It was amusing to see the visitors moving in slow motion as to not disturb the Cathedral’s peaceful mood.
For me, Nidarosdomen is a place to be still.