The Bergen Cathedral has a long and turbulent history, but for almost 900 years people have worshipped here. The first church was dedicated to “Olav the Holy”, Norway’s patron saint. It was a small parish church and is mentioned in “King Sverres history”. The small stone church must have been built by 1150.

Norway Bergen Churches - Bergen Cathedral / Domkirken
Norway Bergen Churches – Bergen Cathedral / Domkirken

When the Franciscan friars came to Bergen in the first half of the 13th century, they were granted the use of the church, which was heavily damaged by fire both in 1248 and in 1270. The benevolent King Magnus “the Lawmender”, gave a generous donation, and the friars built a beautiful church next to their convent. This Franciscan basilica was consecrated by bishop Narve in 1301 and was quite plain with almost no interior decoration.

We do not know much about the church during the time before the Reformation, but several German merchants bestowed the church in their wills. The church was damaged by fire both in 1463 and 1488.

When the Lutheran Reformation was introduced in Norway by a royal declaration in Copenhagen, the old cathedral at Bergenhus, was is ruins. The first Lutheran bishop in the diocese of Bjørgvin claimed the old Franciscan church and made it the Cathedral of the country’s oldest diocese.

The Cathedral was rebuilt because of fires both in 1623 and 1640. A very thorough restoration took place in the 1880´s, led by the architects Christie and Blix. The old rococo interior was literally thrown out and the Cathedral got close to its present interior. In 1997 the Cathedral acquired a new organ with 61 stops, delivered by Rieger Orgelbau of Austria.

What to see?
Upon entering the Cathedral, you can see paintings (1) of almost all the bishops of Bjorgvin since the reformation. There is also a monument, donated by King Karl Johan, in honor of bishop Johan Nordahl Brun (2), a famous poet.

You will also see a memorial plaque remembering the seamen in The Royal Norwegian Navy, who lost their lives during The Second World War. Above the main door there is a wonderful epitaph showing the transfiguration at the mountain (3). In the choir there is a plaque in remembrance of the church’s generous patron of the medieval age, King Magnus “the Lawmender”, who is said to be buried in the cathedral. (4).

The stained glass windows were added to the choir during the restoration in 1880´s. The motifs are the birth of Jesus, his crucifixion, resurrection and his baptism by John. Underneath you will find stories from The Old Testament corresponding the main motifs. It is Adam, the bronze snake in the desert, Jonah and the whale and the ark of Noah. (5)

At the altar you will see Christ as the “Pantokrator”, the ruler of all things. He holds the world in one hand and the other is lifted in blessing. The four evangelists surround Christ, each holding a book with the traditional sign of each evangelist. Underneath is written: “Jesu Kristi Guds sonns blod renser fra all synd! (The blood of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, cleanses from all sin”) (6) The old altar- paintings, predating 1880, you will see in two pictures. The Last Supper hanging in the choir and The Crucifixion in the side aisle (7). A modern crucifix was donated to the Cathedral in 1995, by Rados Dedic (8).

The old Vestry and Chapter house, was completed at the same time as the Cathedral in 1301. It has since the reformation served three purposes: storage for clerical vestments, a library and meeting-room for the chapter. The Vestry was restored in 1971 and rededicated by bishop Juvkam. The stained glass window made by the artist T. Moseid shows the risen Christ (9).

In the churchyard there are two memorials well worth a visit. One is the grave of bishop and poet Johan Nordahl Brun. In Bergen he is first and foremost known as the author of “The Bergen Song”. His grave is to the north of the Cathedral (10). On the south side there is a memorial dedicated to Dorothea Engelbrektsdatter, Norway´ s first “poetinde” – female poet. In the bas- relief you can see her at her desk with an hourglass and a skull both symbolizing her quite pessimistic poetry. On the other side of the memorial there is a bas-relief of Petter Dass, a famous Norwegian priest and poet (11).

The well-known cannon ball in the west wall, has been sitting there since the battle on the bay of Bergen in 1665 (see the small picture).

Situated in the center of Bergen, walking distance from the Fish Market.

Norwegian name: Domkirken.
Location: Center of Bergen.
Telephone: +47 55 59 32 70
Norway Bergen - Bergen Cathedral / Domkirken
Norway Bergen – Bergen Cathedral / Domkirken
Norway Bergen Churches - Bergen Cathedral / Domkirken
Norway Bergen Churches – Bergen Cathedral / Domkirken