Thursday, January 2, 2014

Trondheim. Church of Our Lady, St. Mary's Church, Mariakirke, Exterior


Mariakirke, St. Mary's Church, 1178
 Church of Our Lady, Trondheim 

1.  Chronology.  The Church of our Lady is the only other 12th Century church in Trondheim, after the Trondheim Cathedral, (Nidaros is the old name for Trondheim), nearby.  Analyze the dates:  The Church of our Lady is the only medieval building in Trondheim.  The Cathedral has too little left of that era, to qualify except for the few parts that are old. Very few.  Can a comparison really be made, after each underwent reconstructions? I see now that the west wing (center section here) and the tower date from the 17th-18th Centuries, and that gibes with repairs after 1708 in particular, see below, and the east wing (smaller far-left here) is identical to the medieval 11th Century.  See

 Follow the chronology, what is or is not original, or historically replicated from records. 
  •  1030  Olaf II was killed in battle at Stiklestad.  His body was brought secretly to Trondheim (Nidaros)
  • 1060   Church was built, Old Saint Mary's, on site near where the body had lain
  • 1070.  Construction of the Cathedral begins, so all attention would focus on the bigger place.  This.was only begun in 1070, and remained unfinished until about 1152. 
  • 1178-79  Tear down Old St. Mary's, so there would be no competition, and build replacement on another site to serve as church to a cloister also in Nidaros (Trondheim).  Do we know the demolition year?  This is the building completion time, I believe.
  • Both the Cathedral and The Cathedral was then was subject to a series of disasters.  
  • Did St. Mary's the Younger survive fairly well,  and retain its medieval rocks and roots. See FN 1, and 
This St. Mary's the Younger is still medieval.  Nidaros Cathedral, (there is a new Church of St. Olaf but that is different entirely), was still unfinished, and largely destroyed after that. More info?

The long, narrow footprint, from a single belltower, back to nave, altar area, and side weapons house (we were told those side porch rooms added were to accommodate weapons. Is that so here as well?) is typical of old churches that then grew.  To preserve his interest in the Cathedral as the focal point, in 1708 after yet another disaster, the King agreed that there could be repairs to St. Mary's, but the church would  not benefit from his coffers. Money appeared anyway, and the church built (rebuilt?) the tower and west wing immediately behind. Other parts survived in reasonably good condition, given the givens. 
  • If you are pressed for time, visit here instead of the Cathedral, with its fraud facade from the 19th Century.  Nothing to see there.

The Church, Mariakirke, is operated by the Church City Mission, and free concerts are given regularly.

2.  Details

2.1  Meet our informal guide, Steinar Garlimo, himself a fine example of the good works of a mission, a useful life, and the human wisdom of a safety net.  Mr. Garlimo suffered a stroke that left him without use of his left arm, and left leg, but he can use that leg to balance now, and he can walk sufficiently.  He knows, I think, all there is to know of Church of Our Lady.

Steinar Garlimon wrote out this insciption dating from medieval times.  He says it indicates by its inscription that the the named Bjorn Sigvardsson was a stone cutter, one of the many who moved about the country building all these stone or stave churches.  Alternate view:, as the Thornews site suggests, the inscription was by a benefactor.

2. 2  The Norse inscription

 In the old Norse -- the lines here as they appear, with symbols, over four lines as shown, and as written by Steinar Garlimon --
(cross sign) HIN HELGA MARIA

Steinar Garlimon said, informally, that the Old Norse said, Holy Mary owns me (or has my heart?). Bjorne Sigvardsson made this.That is my best recollection of his words.

3.  The stone heads.

The age of this church:  you will not find this kind of age on St. Olaf's Cathedral's fake facade.  Steinar Garlimon identified these as a bishop (which?) and a king, Freide?  Notes unclear.


I have tried to identify the heads.  Still trying.

4.  Gothic remodeling

As elsewhere with Romanesque architecture, when later fashionistas sought to be au courant, Gothic-mania hit St. Mary's in Trondheim and reworked Romanesque arches and doorways into pointed arches.  The result is not pretty.

5.  Later additions: Gothic windows shoved into Romanesque arches, a weapons house side entry with separate room.  That was told to us at Tingvoll, and this looks similar.  Is it the same idea?

The tower and west wing here date from the 17th-18th Centuries.  Was it new construction, or a reconstruction?

FN 1   The first St.Mary's, known as Old St. Mary's, was built on another site in Trondheim 1060 by Harald Hardrada, Harald the Hard-Ruler, Harald III Sigurdsson, half-brother to Olaf II, now Saint Olaf for whom the big Cathedral was built.  Its foundation was near where Olaf II's body rested for a while, and the structure was largely cement and strong.

But a later Bishop took it down and moved St. Marys to this place, Elgeseter, as church to a cloister, in about 1178.  See Heimskringla, the Lives of the Norse Kings, recorded by Snorre Sturlason 1179-1241 or so, and here edited and translated from the Old Norse, see section on St. Mary's at p.529.

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