Oslo Cathedral

Denne artikkelen omtaler et sted

Åpne i Oslo bykart
The Church of Our Saviour in 1975. Photo: Per Adolf Thorén / Museum

Oslo Cathedral (Oslo Domkirke), Stortorvet 1, principal church for the diocese of Oslo (established in 1076). The church was built in 1694–99 and until the mid 19th century it was the city’s only parish church. Until 1950, it was called Vår Frelsers kirke (The Church of Our Saviour) and it has a commanding position on the square of Stortorvet. The tall, copper-clad spire can be seen from large sections of the city. This is the city’s church ‘parlour’ – here is where royal weddings and funerals take place.

The church became a very special meeting place in the period after the tragedy of 22 July in 2011. An open church and a mourning service were held in the cathedral, and outside there was a sea of flowers. In the park outside there is still a small red heart where people can lay flowers in memories of those killed.

The present-day exterior is strongly influenced by the architect Alexis de Chateauneuf’s major restoration of 1849-50. The tower was added and provided with a spire in the Renaissance style, since when it has been a salient feature of the church, and three of the entrances were given Gothic-like portals of granite. The Dutch bricks originally used are now no longer obtainable, and one can clearly see where the tower was added. (At the same time, the interior of the church was converted into the neo-Gothic style, an alteration that was removed in 1950). Part of the monumentalisation of the church was also the curved, long single-storey building (The Bazaar) around the old fire-guard building in the 1840s and 1850s. The church’s bronze doors with motifs from the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew V) were made by Dagfin Werenskiold in 1938.


The present-day interior of the church is strongly influenced by the restoration completed in 1950 under the guidance of Arnstein Arneberg. He brought back the inventory from before 1850: the pulpit (1699), the altarpiece (1700) and the baptismal font (1726). A new octagonal chapel was built. The controversial ceiling decor with motifs from the Creed are the work of Hugo Lous Mohr 1936-50, the seven stained-glass windows in the chancel that of Emanuel Vigeland (1910-16), and the 16 windows in grisaille (shades of grey) in the transept that of Borgar Hauglid (a gift to the church in 1952). The three large 17th century chandeliers are from Hellig Trefoldigheds Kirke (The Church of the Holy Trinity). In the south aisle there is a large silver sculpture with motifs from the Holy Communion by Arrigo Minerbi (this came to the church in 1930). The Sculpture of the Virgin Mary beside the baptismal font is by Turid Angell Eng (1997) and as well as old church textiles, the church also owns recent ones by Anne-Lise Alsing. There are two English stained windows in the east (1903).

The cathedral has three modern organs. In 1985, a chest organ was built, and in 1996 the church acquired a new choir organ with 16 stops. The new main organ with its 53 stops was completed in 1997 in connection with the tercentenary of the cathedral. All three organs have been made by Ryde & Berg. In connection with the new organ the facade from 1729 was restored to its original green colour.

The big bell in the tower weighs 1,600 kg and has been recast six times. It originally hung in Hellig Trefoldigheds Kirke, moved there according to tradition from Sankt Hallvardkatedralen, the former Cathedral of Oslo. The stock also houses three smaller bells that originally also belonged to the Church of the Holy Trinity. In 2003, the church acquired a new carillon as a gift from Director Ørnulf Myklestad. The carillon has 49 bells and the instrument spans four octaves. In the tower is a room when there was a fire watch between 1861 and 1902. This room was restored and opened to the public in 1990.

During restoration of the sacristy in 1963, exceptional old 18th century ceiling paintings were uncovered. Here portraits of the bishops from the Reformation to the present day also hang. Furthermore, the church has a crypt, originally a burial chamber with 42 burial places where, among others, Bernt and Methia Anker lie buried along with an unknown number of children and adults from other families, also the Collett family, and in a small separate chapel lie the sarcophagi of the Hausmann family. Gravestones from the Church of the Holy Trinity were also moved here and preserved. The crypt was restored in 1992.

History of the Cathedral

The church was built on an outcrop of rock between Store Voldport and Lille Voldport, gateways at the east end of what later became the main square of Stortorvet. The cornerstone was laid in 1694, and the building was raised as a cruciform church with a large west tower which was provisionally topped by a simple pyramid roof. The walls were of bricks from the Netherlands and were painted alternately yellow and red, as was usual in Christiania (Oslo). The church was consecrated by Bishop Hans Rosing on All Saints Day, 7 November 1697, and given the name Vor Frælsers Kirke (The Church of Our Saviour). A chapter house, now a sacristy, was built in 1699. At the foot of the tower a stone was built in that must come from one of the churches of old Oslo, probably from Sankt Hallvardkatedralen (The Cathedral of St. Hallvard). The man in the middle is being attacked by a lion and a dragon.

In 1699-1700 the altarpiece and pulpit came into position, begun by an unknown Dutch master and finished by Norwegian woodcarvers in the acanthus style. The cathedral’s first organ was completed in 1702 and was a gift from General Caspar Hausmann, who also lies buried in the crypt. But as early as 1727 there came a new, monumental Baroque organ with 46 stops, built by Lambert Daniel Karsten. The interior was completed in the 1720s: a richly ornamented chancel screen with brass columns and sculpture in the round (composed by Claus Scavenius) – along the walls galleries and closed chairs. An English tower clock, mounted in 1718, is now probably the oldest operational church clock in the country. The ceiling was decorate with cloud paintings. During the first half of the 19th century, much of the inventory was either removed or replaced. In 1849-50 the architect Alexis de Chateauneuf carried out a major-scale restoration, reshaping the Baroque interior into the neo-Gothic. Christiania Savings Bank, which was the faithful supporter of the church as long as it existed (also as Oslo Sparebank), stood for the entire restoration of both exterior and interior. Inside the church, the old Baroque inventory was removed, except for the organ casing and the chandeliers. The ceiling was plastered and extended down over the battlements, to give the interior more of a Gothic vaulting, and a network of ribs was added. The neo-Gothic interior was completed in autumn 1850. The restoration was later characterised as a failure, and the church was described as a stylistic bastard, dark and gloomy.

In 1903, the east windows on either side of the altarpiece were given two stained-glass windows done by English artists, with depictions of the crucifixion and the resurrection. In 1910-16, the other windows in the chancel and north transept were given eight stained-glass windows, done by Emanuel Vigeland, with motifs from Jesus’ life, in 1930 a silver sculpture with holy communion motifs by Arrigo Minerbi, in 1938 new bronze doors by Dagfin Werenskiold and in 1936–50 a new, controversial ceiling decor by Hugo Lous Mohr. During the work on the ceiling paintings, the old cloud paintings were scraped away and the ceiling panelling primed for the new paintings, something which later has led to peeling and a discussion about what can and ought to be done with the ceiling. During a restoration in 1948-50 by the architect Arnstein Arneberg, important items from prior to 1850 (baptismal font, altarpiece and pulpit) were restored to their positions and the English stain-glassed windows bricked in, so that the Baroque altarpiece could show to better advantage.

The church was reopened on 15 May 1950, and given the name Oslo Cathedral.

For many years, the cathedral was in a state of disrepair and it closed in 2006. It re-opened in 2010 after comprehensive rehabilitation, including a renewal of the bearing structures in roof and tower and a new copper cladding of the tower. Inside the church, the two English stain-glassed windows have once more been made visible. During the rehabilitation period, when the church was closed, the church activities of Oslo Cathedral were carried out in The Church of the Holy Trinity. A street chapel was also set up on the lawn facing Karl Johans gate , since there was occasion for lighting candles and prayers, and for writing wishes for intercessory prayers.