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Arland Fiske: A look at the Oslo Cathedral

It was not until my adult years that I learned why my home congregation in Colfax, N.D., was named “Our Saviour’s,” “Vor Frelsers Menighed” in Norwegian. It was named after the cathedral in Oslo.

The original Our Saviour’s Church, consecrated on Nov. 7, 1697, replaced Holy Trinity Church, built in 1630 and burned down in 1686. Before Holy Trinity’s time, there was St. Hallvard’s, built in about 1100 and burned down in 1624. In those days, fires were a constant threat to cities.

The current building has been renovated twice. First re-done in 1849-1850, the latest renewal was completed in 1950 to celebrate Oslo’s 900th anniversary. Two massive bronze doors designed by Dagfin Werenskiold, portraying the Beatitudes, greet the visitor. The hand-carved altar, designed in Renaissance and Baroque patterns, show the Last Supper and the Crucifixion, with St. John and the Holy Mother standing on each side of the cross. At the top of the altar is a carving of the risen Christ flanked by two angels.

The pulpit was carved by a Dutch craftsman and was placed in the church in 1699. At the top of the canopy above the pulpit is the king’s monogram – C 5 – standing for Christian V, king of Denmark (reigned 1588-1648). By it are two lions. These carvings have become an inspiration to woodcarvers all over Norway. Woodcarving is a national hobby in that land of forests.

A famous Danish organ builder, Lambert Daniel Karsten, built the first organ in 1711. It was renovated in 1930. A new organ was installed in 1976 that has 87 stops and five manuals plus pedal.

Sixteen stained glass windows are the work of Emanuel Vigeland, a famous name among Norwegian artists. Showing scenes from both Old and New Testaments, they were given as a memorial to those killed in World War II. There are also pictures of St. Augustine, St. Bernhard, Luther and Calvin.

The most spectacular works of art are on the ceilings. These were completed in 1950. They tell the story of the Bible. The paintings are based on the Apostles’ Creed and can be seen from below at any angle.

A small chapel was completed in 1950. One of the stained glass windows was donated in memory of Crown Princess Martha (1901-1954), wife of King Olav V, then crown prince.

Our Saviour’s Cathedral is probably the most ornately decorated church in Norway. Every detail has been planned to help the worshipper meet Jesus Christ as “Lord of the Universe.” Nidaros Domkirken, (Nidaros Cathedral) in Trondheim, is more famous, but is more austere in appearance.

There is a statue of the Danish King who ruled Norway, Christian IV, and who rebuilt Oslo after the great fire of 1624. Nearby is an open market. But let me suggest, if you go looking for the cathedral, follow your street directions carefully. None of the streets are straight. If you get lost, just walk downhill. It will take you straight to the harbor and then you can start all over again. The clock on the tower was installed in 1718; the oldest in the country and it still keeps time.

If you go to Oslo, visit Our Saviour’s Church for a worship service and stay for the guided tour. It’s part of the Scandinavian heritage. It’s well worth an extra hour of your time.

Next week: The city hall in Oslo.


ARLAND FISKE, a Lutheran minister who formerly lived in Laporte and now lives in Texas, has written 10 books on  Scandinavian themes, including 2012’s “Sermons in Psalms.”