King Olav Haraldsson was buried by Nidelven, the river Nid, after he was killed in the battle of Stiklestad in 1030. Tradition has it that the high Altar of the Cathedral now stands on the exact spot of this burial site. One year and five days after he died the King was declared a saint, and pilgrims began to flock to Nidaros and the King´s grave.
Work on erecting the first stone church at St. Olav´s burial site commenced around 1070, and it is assumed that the Cathedral was finished in all its splendour some time around 1300. It was then held to be the most beautiful church in the entire country, which we of course claim it still is! Admittedly, the Cathedral has undergone a great deal of restoration work after centuries of decay, but now, after more than 130 years of restoration and rebuilding, we can really appreciate the impression the church must have made on medieval pilgrims.
Today the Cathedral continues to attract a great number of visitors. Each year we receive around 400 000 tourists from around the globe. The Cathedral also serves as the local parish church for inhabitants of downtown Trondheim with divine services given several times each week. Moreover, music recitals in the Cathedral offer sublime listening experiences under the high vaulted arches.
Nidaros Cathedral is a virtual treasure trove filled with beautiful and exciting works of art. It has innumerable richly ornamented stone sculptures, and a number of interior furnishings add to the splendid decoration of the Cathedral. It is known that the Cathedral had many valuable objects during the medieval period, but everything has been lost.
The only exception is a chalice made from gilt silver, dating from around 1520-1530, and a large chest from 1304 used to store some of the Cathedral´s mass vestments.
During the last 150 years a number of art objects have been donated to the church, some of which have been made by leading Norwegian artists.
THE CHURCH ORGANS
The church has two organs. The old baroque organ stands in the north transept, while the main organ stands in the far west end of the nave, under the rose window.
The Wagner organ
The Cathedral´s famous baroque organ was built by renowned organ builder Joachim Wagner and was completed in 1741. Wagner belonged to the community of organ builders around Johann Sebastian Bach, and his instruments lend themselves well for interpretations of Bach´s music. The history of the baroque organ in the Cathedral is a history of modification, until it was finally stowed away when the new organ was set up in 1930.
However, a surprising amount of the original material was still intact when the facade and the remains of the baroque organ were shipped to the great organ builder Jurgen Ahrend´s workshop in Germany. In 1994 the organ was completely restored and was again placed in the north transept of Nidaros Cathedral in all its former glory. Today there are only four other large Wagner organs, all in the Berlin area, in addition to ours. The organ in Nidaros Cathedral has 30 registers distributed on two manuals and pedals.
The Steinmeyer organ
The large main organ in Nidaros Cathedral was built by the German company Steinmeyer. With its 127 registers the organ was one of the largest in North Europe until 1960, when it was moved and substantially modified. Even though the rebuilding ruined much of the original design and the acoustic balance, the sound of the instrument still affords the listener a sense of the original sound from the organ in the Cathedral.
The organ is currently in a poor condition, but is still well worth preserving. A committee convened to assess the Steinmeyer organ in 1992 unanimously proposed that the organ should be restored to its original condition. Very few of these large German organs from this period still exist. Since 1999, a committee representing the concerned parties has been putting together specific plans for repairing and restoring the organ.
Up to 1993 the baroque organ facade was placed in front of the Steinmeyer organ as an ornament.
||THE CROWN JEWELS
The first crowning of a King in the Nordic countries took place in Norway in 1163 in Bergen. In connection with this event the King had to promise that his own crown, and that of all his successors, would be kept in Christchurch in Nidaros, for the eternal honour of God and St. Olav.
A number of kings were crowned later, but the crowning was not always performed in Trondheim. According to the 1814 Constitution, the King was to be crowned in Nidaros Cathedral. Norway did not have any crown jewels, but King Carl III John personally undertook, at his own expense, to have a royal crown made. For the crowning ceremony in Nidaros Cathedral in 1818, he brought with him the crown and other regalia he had ordered in Stockholm. The Queen´s Crown, and the Queen´s orb with a cross and the sceptre were made in Stockholm in 1830.
Nidaros Cathedral and the Crown Jewels
The crown jewels or regalia are the symbols of royal power, comprising crowns for the King, the Queen and the royal heir (the Crown Prince crown). Moreover, there is an anointment horn, a sword of the realm, two sceptres and two gold orbs with crosses. The only one of these pieces that was made in Norway is the Crown Prince"s crown, which looks like a fairy-tale crown with eight points, ornamented with Norwegian freshwater pearls and coloured stones. The crown jewels were moved to Nidaros Cathedral in 1988, thus indicating the position of the Cathedral as the church for crowning the monarchy in Norway.
Crowning and blessing
The Article on Crowning was removed from the Constitution in 1908. The last royal couple to be crowned was thus King Haakon and Queen Maud in 1906. When King Haakon passed away in 1957, a blessing ceremony was held, with King Olav being blessed in front of the High Altar on 22 June 1958. King Harald and Queen Sonja were blessed in Nidaros Cathedral on 23 June 1991. On that occasion the King´s and the Queen´s Crowns were placed on each side of the High Altar.
The King´s Crown
Weighing 1.5 kg, the Crown is made from pure gold. It has a 4 cm high ring carrying eight loops which meet in the middle in a slightly recessed cross. The top features a globe in blue enamel strewn with small gold stars. The Crown is dominated by a large 6.3 cm high tourmaline stone, which is said to have been a gift given to King Carl John from the Brazilian consul in Stockholm. The top of the crown is made from purple velvet and decorated with small crowns embroidered with genuine gold thread. Fifty pearls have been inlaid between the crowns. The crown jewels are not displayed due to technical problems. A new exhibition will open in June 2006 in the Archbishop´s Palace.
THE HEADSTONE CRYPT
During the restoration of Nidaros Cathedral many fragments of the old headstones surfaced. These medieval headstones of marble, dating long back in the history of the church, have suffered the ravages of time and harsh fates. Most were crushed and reused as building blocks in walls during the 16th century. As the pieces were found, they were assembled. Since 1999 a selection of these headstones has been put on display in the church crypt, representing the largest collection of medieval grave artefacts in Norway.
Gudrid, a woman from Trondheim from the 1200s. The oldest portraits in Norway Nidaros Cathedral has been used as a church for burials for almost one thousand years. In 1030 Olav Haraldsson was buried in the spot where the high altar now stands, and later thousands of persons have been buried both inside and outside the church. In the Middle Ages, however, only a select handful were honoured with a final resting place close to St. Olav.
The displayed headstones are of excellent quality, featuring interesting scenes and inscriptions in Latin and old Norse. Among the most famous ones are parts of the headstone of the Duke of Skule from around 1240, featuring a portrait of the Duke. A number of other stones also depict a deceased person, thus being the oldest "portraits" of named persons in Norway.