Værnes Church, Norway c 1085

Nidaros Domkirken
Nidaros Cathedral

One attraction that everyone comes to see in Trondheim, Norway, is Nidaros Cathedral and yet it is the nearby Værnes church in Storjdal that, for me, holds more fascination, at least in a historical sense.

Not only does the Værnes Church have a purpose-built ‘Weapons House,’ that dates back to Viking times, but  you get to see Viking age architecture in regular daily use and see some of Scandinavia’s earliest church frescoes.

Weapon house
The Weapon House

In the 11th Century, any self respecting, newly Christianized, Viking carried with them a range of knives, axes and other paraphernalia used in defence, and weapons such as these were banned from Church. When the Priest really wanted the new Christians to attend Church, he had to provide a purpose built structure to safely lock up any instruments of death. And so the Weapons House was built. Ten centuries on, I believe the ‘House,’ now accommodates nothing more deadly than a garden hoe or lawn cutter.   [Watch out for your toes].

Photo credit

The interior of the church takes the visitor straight back to the 11th Century and is every bit as unique as the Weapon House. The roof trusses, pictured below, span 11 metres and are completely original. This is Viking carpentry at its finest and it is the only original roof of its type, still in existence. Notably, the trusses were used as a design template in reconstructing the roof of Nidaros cathedral and Håkonshall in Bergen.

Værnes kirke, Stordal, Norway
Værnes Church at Stjørdal dates back to 1085 AD and is the oldest church in Norway.

What you see above you, at Værnes, is what a Viking saw ten centuries ago.

A raised and carved chair (c 1685), see above, was constructed as the private pew of General Von Schultz, the local Squire. It makes me slightly recoil to tell you this but, the wooden lattice ‘cage’ below was for the wives to sit, ( either Von Schultz or the Pastor’s wife. It is embarrassingly even referred to as a ‘wife’s cage.’ Awful, I know, but that is history.

Detail in the carving

Faces carved into the interior of this elevated chair are thought to depict the face of Von Schultz, but no one is quite sure of that. To me, some of them more resembled a gargoyle or the “north wind.”

Vaernes kirke
Frescoes on the walls of the church in Stjørdal

The wall mural  pre-dates the carved pulpit and is also original. Echoes of a world now past.

The significance of this fresco is lost in time

A fresco on the wall that looks like a hood from a pulpit remains a mystery to historians. The meaning and significance of this symbol has been lost.

Threatened by the Nazis during the war years, with their intensive infrastructure plans for a military base and airport, at Trondheim, Værnes Church survived and is still used for church services today. In fact, the church is so popular for baptisms and weddings, it is booked out many months and sometimes, years in advance.

Trondheim Værnes
Værnes Kirke – Just outside Trondheim airport

Make a small detour from Værnes Lufthavn, (Trondheim airport), to Stjørdal, in Norway and you can walk the path of history.

Entrance to the church

Værnes Kirke is an important link to the past and something to ponder about. Linking to Jo’s Monday Walks – a tad earlier


The Legacy of Olav and Nidaros

Nidaros Domkirken
Nidaros Cathedral – the northernmost cathedral in the world

“Olsok (literally “Olaf’s Wake” or “Olaf’s Vigil” – that is the eve of St. Olaf’s Day) is now the Norwegian name for 29 July, traditionally the date of the death of King Olaf II Haraldsson of Norway, in the Battle of Stiklestad, east of Nidaros (Trondheim), Norway, in 1030.

  Olaf II Haraldsson (995 – 29 July 1030), later known as St. Olaf, (or St Olav), was King of Norway  1015 to 1028. Born in Ringerike, he was the great grandchild of Harald Fairhair, the first King of Norway.

Even as a young boy, Olaf had a strong conviction that he was going to lead Norway and be their eternal King that would unite them into one Kingdom. As a Viking chieftain, he went raiding through Estonia and Scandinavia, but it was whilst awaiting the close of  winter in Normandy he was baptised in Rouen Cathedral, (now Notre Dame), by Robert the Dane, Archbishop of Normandy.

Nidaros Cathedral
Nidaros Cathedral side door


The year 1015 saw Olaf back in Norway and with the support of the five Kings of the Uplands, Olaf declared himself King. Furthermore, he then conquered the south of Norway, founding Borg, (now the town of Sarpsborg), and even made peace with the King of Sweden.

However, his reign over a united Norway was not to last, and he was forced to flee into exile, from Canute the Great who had the support of discontented Norwegian nobles. When Canute’s Regent was lost at sea, Olaf took the opportunity to seize back his kingdom, but died at the ensuing Battle of Stiklestad.

Stiklestad Church where Olaf fell in battle Source: Wikipedia

It is said that Olaf’s body is buried somewhere near the present day site of Nidaros cathedral,  by a stream. Some time after the burial, legend has it that Olav’s coffin rose up out of the ground, and was re-interned. Rumors begun to circulate in the community about Olaf’s exploits and his legendary status, and when the coffin again rose up out of the burial site as second time, the people opened it and it was said to “smell like roses”.

Burial place of St Olav
Burial place of St Olav

A year after his death, he was canonized as a Saint. Construction  began on the Nidaros Cathedral in 1070 over the burial site of St. Olaf. The oldest parts  of Nidaros, still in existence date from the middle of the twelfth century, as fire has reduced the cathedral to ruins until the Reformation.

As the northernmost cathedral in the world, it is a site of pilgrimage even today.

Nidaros Domkirken
Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim, Norway built to honour St Olav


Olaf was canonized by Bishop Grimkell in Nidaros on 3 August 1031, and is remembered as Rex perpetuus Norvegiae, the Eternal King of Norway. [He is, however, remembered] more so than his attempts to finally and forcefully convert the country to Christianity, Olaf’s martyrdom at Stiklestad appears to have contributed decisively to establishing the Church in all parts of the country.” [Odd Steinar]

Pilgrims would leave their mark on Nidaros cathedral walls to ward off evil

It seems that Olaf, like many Scandinavian kings, used his Christianity to gain more power for the monarchy and centralize control in Norway. The cult of Olaf not only unified the country, it also fulfilled the conversion of the nation, something for which the king had fought so hard. [Wikipedia]


And today the Olsok legacy lives on, not only in Scandinavia, but also in many parts of the world, where Scandinavian heritage is honoured. Whether this was Olaf’s primary or secondary intention, it is clear that he is remembered as Norway’s patron Saint:  the King who united Norway for the first time.

gammel bro2014
In Trondheim

Something to  Ponder About



Danmark, History & Traditions, Traditional Art

Travel theme: Ancient

Jelling Rune StoneI was about to touch and photography history. This impressive Rune stone was raised in the 10th century at a time when the Vikings had their seat of power in Jelling, Denmark. The stones have stood there since. In 2008, four years after this photo was taken, UNESCO determined that the stones were weathering and needed extra protection and suggested moving them to an indoor location.


The sensible Danes found a compromise and built a glass cover over them, whilst leaving them in their original position. I don’t know if you can still touch and feel them, as we were able to, in 2004. It was a bizarre feeling touching something from that era.

This meets Ailsa’s from Where’sMyBackpack’s criteria of ancient, at least in my mind. Jelling is a beautiful town and I often ponder my time there.

Community, History & Traditions

Proverbial Thursday – Proverbs and Quotes from around the World

vigelandI find profound wisdom in proverbs, sayings and quotes and marvel at the way they can be so succinct in communicating messages to the reader. Mostly anonymous, they come to us from past generations and across cultures, and speak of the experiences of lives lived and lessons learned. Quotes like proverbs, can make us think more deeply about something.

Each Thursday, I post a Proverb or Saying and a Quote that I find thought provoking.  I hope you will too.

“Liten tue kan velte stort lass”–Little strokes fell great oaks.

Norwegian proverb

“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds that you plant.”

(Robert Louis Stevenson)

Some words to ponder about.

History & Traditions

Proverbial Thursday – Proverbs from around the World

I find profound wisdom in proverbs, sayings and quotes and marvel at the way they can be so succinct in communicating messages to the reader. Mostly anonymous, they come to us from past generations and across cultures, and speak of the experiences of lives lived and lessons learned. Quotes like proverbs, can make us think more deeply about something.

Each Thursday, I post a Proverb or Saying and a Quote that I find thought provoking.  I hope you will too.


Courage doesn’t mean you don’t get afraid;
 courage means you don’t let fear stop you.

Your cattle will die, your friends will die, you will die, but your reputation will never die, if you get a good one.

Odin, (Mythical Viking god)

Icelandic proverb from the Sagas.

Something to ponder about this day.