In 1070 AD, on the exact spot of St. Olav's tomb, along the banks of the River Nidelven, King Olav Kyrre began to erect a stone church. These stones were the starting blocks of Nidaros Cathedral, Nidarosdomen in Norwegian. It is believed that Scandinavia's largest medieval building was finished in all its glory around the year 1300, but in the centuries that followed it was ravaged with fire on a number of occasions. In 1869, the Nidaros Cathedral Restoration Workshop was created. This work has been going on continuously for over 130 years and continues to this day. They have one aim: to preserve Norway's most important national treasure.
The heart of Norway
The cathedral has played a vital role in the Norwegian history books. The distinctive high spire and dominating towers are easily recognizable but it is the west front that is the most characteristic feature. It is also one of the symbols most associated with Trondheim today. The Gothic western façade is made up of 76 ornate stone statues, recessed into every niche. This is a result of years of painstaking restoration. In the middle of the wall, the stained glass rose window dominates. Make sure you walk around the exterior of the whole cathedral as there are many gargoyles and the attention to detail is incredible.
Plan your visit
Enter through the large doors and the interior is just as impressive as the outside. It is easy to see why this church is world famous. The large arches in the ceiling create fantastic acoustics that are truly unique. This is a working church with a packed program of events, including both services and concerts. If you are lucky enough to visit when one of the Nidaros Choirs are singing, make sure you get yourself a ticket. At the visitor center, located in the courtyard, you can purchase entrance tickets and book a guided tour, a great way to make the most of the experience.
In the summer months, you can also take a trip up into one of the towers and enjoy the beautiful view over Trondheim.
A glimpse into the past
Next to the south side of the cathedral is the Archbishop's Palace. Construction work started in the second half of the 1100s and it is one of the best-preserved sites of its kind in Europe. The complex contains several museums, where the Norwegian regalia is on display, including the Crown Jewels, as well as the Armory and War Museum. Across the courtyard is a museum dedicated to the archaeological finds and original sculptures of the cathedral, including the immaculately preserved Archbishop's coin mint.
In celebration of the city's medieval history, the week-long St. Olav Festival takes place here in July/August each year and is filled with a packed program of concerts and events, including fascinating historical reenactments. A visit to Trondheim is not complete without seeing this majestic religious and cultural feat with your own eyes.