New future for empty churches

The Evangelical-Lutheran religion has been the state religion in Norway since 1537. But there has been a state religion in this country since 1030, belonging to the Catholic Church before 1537. Today, on the 21th of May, the parliament decided to change the Constitution. We don’t have a state religion any longer, but the Norwegian Church will be Norway’s national church. 162 voted for, three voted against.

The reason is Norway has become a multicultural society in recent decades. We already had freedom of religion of course. The new Norwegian church is to be equal with other religious and spiritual groups in the society. The biggest of these are the Catholic Church, which is growing and has just passed 100,000 registered members, and so is Islam. While there were about 1000 members of the Muslim community in Norway in 1980, there are now about 100.000. There are also other religous groups in Norway. The big majority are members of the christian church, about 80 percent of the population, but the Christian society is quite secular. Most people only goes to church when there is a wedding, a funeral or christmas eve. But there is also a cultural aspect. There are thousands of old, and some new, churches in Norway. They are everywere, in the cities and in the countryside, so this is also a cultural heritage. Here are a few, and there are more in my photo gallery.

Hasselvika church, Rissa.

Nidarosdomen, Trondheim.

Christmas eve, Selbustrand chapel.

Selbu church.

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52 thoughts on “New future for empty churches

  1. You are so right about that. I love the Rissa church, particularly. This reminds me, too, I have just come back from Cardiff, and among the sights I saw was a Norwegian Church, which was established there “to provide religious and social care to thousands of Norwegian sailors that were employed in the Norwegian merchant fleet.”

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    1. How interesting, Susan, I have never seen any of these sailors churches (Norwegian Church abroad), but there are more than 30 churches and 15 chaplains, with service for norwegians abroad in more than 80 countries. And I find Rissa church to be very special, it looks different from most churches.

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  2. These are absolutely beautiful churches ! I appreciate you sharing the history of religion and it is interesting to see how things transition according to the times. The one in Trodheim is particularly unique in its architecture. Hope you had a chance to get inside of them as well. Thanks for sharing!

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  3. I visited some old Norwegian wooden Kirkans. Other than that,
    what I was impressed was a huge painting of a sun on the ceiling
    of a church. (though I need to find a photo to tell which church it was).
    Longing to the sun seemed stronger than to the heaven in your country.
    (That was what I thought then 🙂 )

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    1. Yes I wonder what church, Yoshizen. I am not an expert on churches, but maybe the sun was to say something about heaven. In a church nearby there is the stars in heaven painted on the ceiling, with gold and light blue and some clouds. It looks very beautiful. And yes we long for the sun, but they didn’t think like that those days when these things were painted I believe.

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      1. Thank you for your quick reply.
        By the way, beautiful night shot of a church with the
        light on each grave stones —- is it for a special day in
        a year ?

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      2. Hi again, Yoshizen. The lights on the graves are christmas eve, and many put lights also other days during the christmas. You know it is dark almost all day that time. I think it is a quite new tradition to put lights on the grave.

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  4. I loved the first photo. Then scrolled down and said, no, I like this one, then the next and no, that one, then… Well you see where I’m going with this. What fabulous structures!

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  5. De Noorse kerkjes zijn zo indrukwekkend en sfeervol, dat gevoel weet je over te brengen.
    Groetjes Cristien

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  6. I learned a lot. We are also secular for religious. We only go to a temple in the first three days of the year.

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  7. Great photography!
    About the little lights on the tombs at Christmas: I saw that in the Dolomites (Valle d’Aosta) some years ago. People come and visit their family graves in the afternoon before the midnight mass, bringing those small lanterns. Very pretty!

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  8. Some of the most interesting buildings in a country are it’s churches. You have certainly imaged a nice variety. By contrast the Anders Breivik trial must be very distressing.

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  9. Beautiful photos (of beautiful churches). I especially like the red one – the design is so unusual – unlike anything I’ve ever seen on all my travels.

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  10. As the world becomes more secular, so do the numbers who visit churches! Africa perhaps is the most religious continent. Catholics make the majority of church going people on the African continent. But the numbers have been reducing as we get exposed to western culture. Thanks for sharing please!

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  11. These are beautiful captures – that last photo is so peaceful. The laterns are such a comforting touch to a graveyeard.

    And the first picture could be a post card – love how you framed it with trees, just perfect!

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  12. We show interesting paper on religion in Spain so with Catholics, only events such as weddings, funerals etc. concentrate achieved a great number of Christians, the rest of the days young people do not step on these spaces. I think in the distant future of religion as we know it today will disappear completely.

    regards and beautiful pictures, congratulations for the great work.

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  13. (Translated by Google) 🙂
    I love the churches of northern Europe are not as baroque as those of Spain and also are highly stylized; encanjan well with the landscape.
    On the other hand reminds me of the films of Carl Dreyer.
    Regards, beautiful photos, my friend.

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    1. Can’t say it any different. I adore the simplicity of the churches in Scandinavia. No fancy bell towers, no extravaganza. Of course, you have this kind in the cathedrals, but even there, it is simple, inconspicuous. A perfect reflection of what Religion ought to be. And the pictures support these images. Great and beautiful shots, Bente

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  14. The Nidarosdomen,Trondheim church is amazing and beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing! It’s happy to know these beautiful churches will be used again, regardless of what religion.

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  15. Hi Bente,
    I just happened to find your blog because I’m doing some research on the Selbu knitting tradition and somewhere I saw that the founder of the Selbu Knitting Coop in the 1930s was named Haarstad. My Mormor’s family name was Haarstad and she emigrated to the U.S. from Selbu in the 1880s so I was looking for more information. I didn’t find what I was looking for but I found your blog.

    Your photography touches my heart. The green butterfly is stunning! And the churches brought back good memories of a wonderful trip to Norway several years ago with my sister and brother and our spouses. We went to visit both Niardos and the Selbu church. We were there on the King’s birthday and the 1000 year anniversary of Trondheim. My Farfar and Farmor came to the U.S. from the Roros area. My ancestors went there to work at the mine in the 1600s. So we’ve visited that church too. I hope Norway will continue to preserve it’s churches.

    I’m bookmarking your blog, what a lovely gift to your readers!

    Pat in Seattle

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    1. How interesting. We might be related, because I have relatives who emigrated to the U.S. So many did in the 1880s, hundreds and hundreds, most out of poverty or because there were not enough farmland. But there are 3 different Haarstad-families in Selbu. They used to take their names from the farm’s name, when moving to a new farm. We stay in touch. By the way, I have some knitting photos in my photo gallery: http://bentehaarstad.photoshelter.com/gallery/selbustrikk-knitting-wool/G0000xk6frJU4SfU/

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      1. Hi Bente,
        Thanks for replying! I just realized today that I forgot to look back at this entry to see your reply. Thanks for the link to your knitting photos. It’s great to see that the tradition is still alive!

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