And was the holy Lamb of God,
On Englands pleasant pastures seen!
- And did those feet, William Blake

mandag 31. mars 2014

A church of its time - a brief history of the Church of St. Olav, Trondheim

In recent years Catholicism has been on the rise in Norway. This is partly a consequence of immigration from Catholic countries – such as Poland or the Philippines – but another significant reason is the increase of converts, many of whom are intellectuals dissatisfied with the lack of mysticism in the Protestant Church of Norway.

Catholicism has not always had a good condition in Post-Reformation Norway. When our constitution was drafted in 1814, it stated specifically that monastic orders and Jews were denied access to the realm. We have fortunately come a long way since then, and today both monastic orders and – more importantly – Jews are welcomed to our country. As a result of this, several monastic sites in Norway have resumed their activity, and in the vicinity of Trondheim – where I study – we have several active monasteries.

In the early 20th century a Catholic church was built with significant financial support from professors of the Norwegian Technical College, one of the predecessors of the modern-day university conglomerate known as the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. This church was torn down after a few decades and a new church was built which still stands, albeit only for a short while longer. Amusingly enough, this is the cathedral of Trondheim in the true sense, since it is here, in the Church of St. Olav in Trondheim, that the Catholic bishop has his cathedra.

Modern statue of St. Olav from the eponymous church, conspicuously beardless
Photo credits: Eline Løvlien

The heavily-restored medieval cathedral, the church's neighbour
Also, what everyone thinks of when they talk about the cathedral of Trondheim

The new church was built in the 1970s and was designed to meed the immediate needs of a church building. It was not built to last, and the architect was surprised to learn from the current priest – in a fairly recent conversation - that it was still standing. This almost intentional brevity was not evident to the church authorities at the time, and they commissioned the Norwegian artist Håkon Bleken – one of our most celebrated modernists – to paint an altar fresco.

Håkon Bleken before his modernist altar piece
Courtesy of Adresseavisen

When considering the architecture of the place, it is not surprising that the building is lumbering heavily under the ad-hoc nature of its design. The walls are made of concrete interspersed with glass roundels and it is, to my own and personal opinion, aesthetically displeasing, and from a practical point of view this architectural solution is both costly and cumbersome, since it requires a lot of electricity to heat up the central nave. As a consequence, a new church will be built in its stead, and construction will being after the celebration of Easter Week this year. Bleken's altar fresco has been the major challenge in this process, but now it has been agreed that it will be dismantled and stored by the science museum belonging to the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.  

Ingen kommentarer:

Legg inn en kommentar