The history of the Church of the Cross in Bergen goes back to 1181 when the Holy Church of the Cross was first erected. The name has no connection with today’s characteristic cruciform plan. The church acquired that design in the seventeenth century when it was extended, first with the south wing and later with the north wing.
There have been many extensions, reconstructions and restorations through the ages, often as a result of the numerous fires which have ravaged in the history of the church and town (e.g. in 1580, 1623, 1640, 1702). Thus the church has experienced many changes in both its exterior and interior. The Church of the Cross is, therefore, a living example of several periods. “Romanesque nave, fragments of late Gothic, Renaissance in the tower, Baroque in the wings, cast-iron windows from about the middle of the last century.” (Fredrik Konow lund)
One can, according to Helge Johnsen, imagine the first church as “a Roman church in pure style with an outer masonry of finely hewn soapstone blocks resting upon beautifully moulded plinths. The cornice was ornamented with a Roman frieze”. An etching from about this time shows that this church, like St. Mary’s (Mariakirken), had two towers at that time with pyramid spires to the west. There are many indications that these towers were built of timber and are, therefore, not the original. The porch in the north end gable is from 1632 when this end was completed. It is considered one of the finest Renaissance porches in Norway.
The church has three church bells. They were installed in the tower when it was rebuilt in 1743. The inscriptions on the big and medium sized bells show that they were made in Amsterdam in 1707. They are decorated with cherub’s heads, frolicking and fluting guardian angels, floral motifs and acanthus leaves. The smallest bell has been recast in 1889 and has simple ornamentation and no inscription apart from the name of the founder and the year.
The churchyard has gradually been reduced to a small lot at the north end with one or two known graves. The soldiers´ memorial in front of the chancel reminds us of the Church of the Cross´ function as a garrison church until after the last war. This stately memorial is crowned with canon bores and was erected in memorial of the soldiers who fell at Alvøen 16 May 1808 in battle against the English frigate ´Tartar´.
In the 1890´s the church acquired the interior, which it has retained more or less, to this day. The roof-supports as well as the pulpit and the pews are from this period. At the time of extensive improvements after the last war certain changes were made. Amongst these the pulpit and pews were cleansed with lye and four galleries were removed.
The church’s organ dates also from the 1890´s. It was built by the well-known German organ maker, Albert Hollenbach, and has 38 pipes. In 1929 it was rebuilt and extended by tree pipes. After the 800 years´ anniversary of the church in 1891, the organ underwent extensive restoration.
The stained glass window behind the altar is the work of Frøydis Haavardsholm and was installed in the chancel gable in 1928. The Garden of Gethsemane picture by Eilif Petersen was then moved from the altar wail to the south end of the nave.
The font is hewn in soapstone and comes from the beginning of the 20th century.
Amongst the familiar names that have been connected with the Church of the Cross, the following may be mentioned:
Niels Klim (1620-1690) was verger in the Church of the Cross and lies buried there. In 1673 he and his wife gave a chalice and paten (The dish on which the bread is laid at the celebration of the Eucharist) to the church. These gifts are still in safekeeping. Niels Klim is most famous as the main character in Ludvig Holberg’s novel ” Niels Klim’s subterranean journey”.
The Greenland Apostle, Hans Egede (1686-1758), worked for a time in the Church of the Cross. He was not tied to the church as a clergyman, but it was, per- haps, right here that he came into contact with the merchants of Bergen who sup- ported him in the task of carrying the Christian message to Greenland. This is the background for why Hans Egede, and his wife, Gjertrud Rask, were given a memorial relief in 1979 on the south-east tower wail of the Church of the Cross. The relief was made by Johan B. Hygen.
The lay preacher, Hans Nielsen Hauge, (1771-1824) had his permanent seat in the Church of the Cross. He ran his business from Bergen and had a house (among others) near the New Church (Nykirken). Bishop Johan Nordahl Brun (1745-1816) had a sheltering hand over this controversial preacher. On the west side of the church there is a relief of Hans Nielsen Hauge. It is made by the artist Sophus Madsen, and was presented to the Church of the Cross by the Parish Church Committee in connection with the celebration of the 200th centenary of Hans Nielsen Hauge´s birth.
Johan Nordahl Brun was minister of the Parish in the Church of the Cross from 1774 until he became Bishop of Bergen in 1804. On the north wail of the chaplain’s vestry has been placed a stone belonging to the grave of Johan Nordahl Brun´s daughter. The engraving reads as follows:
“Here lies hidden an early albeit full-blossomed rose which withered all too soon. Rose Alida Fisher, née Brun, born 5 February 1785, died 10 May 1801. Beloved wife of Joh. ad. Fisher. Dear Daughter of, and happy mother of a Johan Nordahl. She evaded blithely all sorrows, slipping through Life ´s fleeting but highest joys, to lie beneath this stone, upon which her husband hath caused to be engraved the most beautiful words there is in all Nature: My First Love.”
A Central Church
Today approx. 2000 people belong to the parish of the Church of the Cross -very many of them elderly. The church ´s central position has made it an ecclesiastical and musical meeting place for people from other parishes and suburbs, some of which lie far from the boundaries of the parish. Church services, weekday devotions and concerts and Gospel evenings draw them to this central church.
Organ recital from mid June to mid August, Wednesdays at 11.30 am and Saturdays at 12 pm.
Situated in the center of Bergen, walking distance from the Fish Market.
Norwegian name: Korskirken i Bergen.
Location: Center of Bergen.
Telephone: +47 55 55 20 00.