Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Skaun Church 1183, Interior; and surroundings

Interior of Skaun Church 

1183,  Skaun Church dates from 1183.  Changes in religious regime and power plays by those seeking to unify a people by religion, blending it with politics, leave little trace of the early medieval. This is the church that is prominent in Sigrid Undset's novel about the 1200's in Norway, and then a film in 1995, Kristin Lavransdatter

The church was locked, so I held the camera aloft against the glass of windows on both sides of the nave, porch end. Snap. The angle available shows a very plain interior.  Compare that austerity to the interior of Tingvoll Church, where the Reformation barely made a dent, visually.  Here, any vestige of decoration or old-time popery is gone.  Then again, our vista was limited.  What is the altar like? There is an altar table, we hear, from the 1200's, and a Madonna oak altar frontal, see The Pilgrim Road to Nidaros, St. Olav's Way by Alison Raju, google book at p.192.  Early converts attached easily to the idea of Mary, as a familiar mother-female figure from their own indigenous religion.  Other dogma had to wait for acceptance.

See FN 1 for a review of the religious history here.

1.  Interior

Arched windows.  The small size of the arched windows at the side where the original entry door was walled in (the porch area became the new entry, apparently)

A window identical to the one that was made by walling in the old entry door balances the nave on the opposite side.  The arched windows on that side look so much larger as to be newer. Stairs to the right lead to the balcony where it would be logical to have an organ.


2.  Austerity with the porch.  

There would have been an earlier weapons-house here, or perhaps at the side where a window that had been a door is located.  But there is no trace there of a necessary roof, and walls.  Here or nowhere for the weapons, apparently.  Why not tell us so?

Skaun does look austere, face-on.  Was it more decorative, imaginative, when built?  Compare this stone church with a similar size, similar date, that is more remote.  At Vik, the stone church still has the dragons under the eaves, and the normal Romanesque belltower, a square, squat but proportional structure.  The new steeple here looks artificial, not fitting for 1183.

 The steeple dates from 1649. The Lutheran Reformation began about 1540.



3.   There is apparently a  museum nearby, but we saw no signs for it.  I want to see how the church looked in 1183.

Weathervanes.  What is this one?  Some weather vanes are imaginative, historic.

Churches go the way the wind blows century by century when it comes to design.  And some winds are obligatory in some religious institutions, others more inclusive.  Which way did Skaun blow?  Being on a pilgrim trail to Trondheim and St. Olav at the Cathedral, it perhaps was not free to remain itself, free of agenda? 

A sadness at not getting inside:  Is there a crypt?


Weathervanes atop steeples:  cockerels, for the cock crowing; or ships, or dragons for auld lang syne.  This looks like a simple banner.  See history of weathervanes at http://www.weathervanesplus.com/history.html

4.  Finding Skaun: 

 If you first come to this lovely white church structure, on the main road, keep going.  This is Borsa Kirke, Borsa Church, and it dates from the 19th Century.  Look for a little sign to Skaun, and go there.  Many maps, however, list Borsa only. Have faith.  Skaun can be found once at Borsa.


Wait for this one, instead.  

This is Skaun Church, its little red fence enclosing its graveyard.


6.  The landscape at Skaun.  Rolling hills, farmland


The red fence of the Skaun Church marks the beginning of an old view, but probably there were far more woods then.  And the fjord would have been closer, probably. 

FN 1

Skaun Church was  finished in 1183, as part of the initial national conversion to a more institutional Christianity requiring everybody to build churches, and all looked broadly alike in order to unify the people politically as well as religiously.  Early Celtic missionaries had paved the way for centuries, with small chapels, living with the people and working with them.  Institutionalism had been kept at bay, the Holy Roman Empire was still distant, but its invasions threatening all Scandinavia by the 12th century.  With the might of the HRE at their doorstep, the Olavs and Haralds converted to a broad Catholicism.  When the king converts, so must the peasants and nobility, so conversion became a matter of compulsion at the outset.

Then came the Black Death, and decimation of the population; and that produced a more rigid Catholicism afterwards that filled clergy vacancies, and other strictures of the Lutheran Reformation. So how did the interior fare?

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