Monday, December 9, 2013

Nidaros Cathedral, Transept

 The Romanesque transept, north side, is close to original in design, even if greatly destroyed by 1818.  This is the area that was constructed beginning 1070.  Yet, its facade and interior have also been changed through the roster of disasters beginning 1329 or so. See FN 1.  Comparing these sections to the grand facade of a facade, these have dimension, depth in receding arches, plays of light and dark, detail.  Even if full of Vigelands, the main facade is a let-down.

For comparative photographs, and full analysis, go back to the The Stones of Nidaros, 1997.

The beginning of major building on this site, to house more regally the remains of the fast-sainted Olaf in 1070, applies to this Romanesque center or transept section. This is the entry area that the earliest pilgrims would have seen.

Transept, Nidaros Cathedral, Trondheim, Norway. Romanesque, evolving to Gothic-mix. The steeple, the central tower, collapsed on the nave, west of the transept section, virtually destroying it, and the tower was never quite rebuilt to the height of the original.  The church burned in 1708, leaving only stone walls. Lightning hit in 1719, more fires.  As a result, the final resting place of any remaining remains of Olaf II,  Saint Olaf, is unknown under the stones somewhere, with everyone else.  That is the ultimate equality. Our guide was clear that nobody knows where he is, but that it was important to put something up for viewing, so somebody did.





None of the stained glass at Nidaros is original.  All dates from the 19th-20th Centuries.



  • Olaf II, Olav II -- search for both spellings) was king 1016-1028, and engaged in violent forced conversions to Christianity, with a religious code imposed in 1024.  Others before him had also pressed Christianity on the people, but Olaf was more effective in his force. This time Olaf went too far and lost the support of his subjects. He was exiled, King Canute of Denmark (and England) took over the Norwegian throne. Then back came warrior Olaf came back in 1030, to reclaim his throne and raise the cross for "Christianity," even though Canute also was Christian, and the religious cards for the new religion were already played.  At the same time, Olaf planned to use the new religious unity to forge his own empire of Norwegians, free of the Danes.  At the battle of Stiklestad, to the north of Trondheim, he lost -- and was killed. Canute prevailed. Olaf II's remains found their way to Trondheim, he was canonized (church ignoring his brutality in converting)  the center predating the later cross-shape of the later church. And even that only survived as medieval in part.  
Olaf II's  hallowed resting place, the Cathedral at Trondheim, Nidaros Cathedral has no idea where his remains are, or if they still are,  in the bowels of this largely destroyed place, that it displays not medieval but 19th Century caricature gargoyles and botoxed facade-saints. 

  • Why not tell tourists up front that the only original part is the center, that once did house Olaf s remains, but the silver casket with his bits was melted down later elsewhere. And that this old section became only the downplayed cross piece of a later-addition full cross floor plan, once the crucifixion and its alleged meaning became such dogma. Olaf himself, long scattered  or his dust after the disasters, under this vast structure that fell all around?  Who will tell the tale, except a fine tour guide inside, who has some honesty about what is, and what is hype.
With all due respect to an officially canonized Saint, Saint Olaf, this Nidaros Cathedral is largely a 19th Century approximation of what is imagined to have been there.  Or, Nidaros Cathedral represents what people wished had been there, or thought should have been there, or perhaps was there, before centuries of sequential disasters. The middle section is the oldest (the cross piece of what is now a cross floor plan), and it better survived.  The big steeple atop that middle section toppled down, bam,
 on the nave at what is now the main entrance, fires, and all left open to the elements.

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