Nov 15, 2018 in Analysis

Nidaros Cathedral Essay

The Value of Nidaros Cathedral 


As the preliminary review of the related literature suggests, a distinct expression of Northern Europe in Nidaros Cathedral is quite obvious. The cathedral belongs to the period of Norman involvement in the culture. Namely, pro-Viking culture found agreement with Christian traditions so that such mutual influence resulted in unique representation of both cultures. In fact, prolonged nave and several towers with sharp ends are the result of Norman influence. Likewise, long halls and semicircle arches also belong to the Norman architectural features. Actually, these features are the origins of the Gothic culture as long as Anglo-Saxon architecture was evidently poor in comparison with Scandinavian architecture1. 

Needless to say, the cathedral has become a cultural center for local people for many years. It was a center of outgoing international culture during this period of 1170-1360. It is quite obvious fact as long a relative settlement of contradiction between Norman and Christian cultures took several centuries. Furthermore, Nidaros Cathedral is a major cultural heritage nowadays, as well. It is still a centre for local people because it keeps the memories about the national history and demonstrates the uniqueness of the local culture. Despite of the results of the survey, which has witnessed that nearly 52% of local people are indifferent to restoring the cathedral, the cathedral contains a custom value to the Scandinavian culture2. Nidaros Cathedral was always regarded as the place where any person may pray to God and share his or her troubles and happiness. Besides that, peculiar architecture of the cathedral presents a symbol of two cultures, which were merging together. As it has been mentioned before, the cathedral may be proved to be the origin of Gothic style.

Taking all these points into consideration, it is important to note that there has been a little agreement on the fact that Nidaros Cathedral remained a great symbol of Restoration in Norway and keeps representing national uniqueness. It is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore the evidence of certain controversy regarding the restoration of the cathedral. In fact, some economic and even environmental implications are involved in this issue. On the contrary, Nomadic roots were quite close to the Christian ones these years. Doubtless, the transformation took a long period, but a gradual merging of two cultures is obvious. The related literature review assumes that this assimilation was both natural and deliberate3. Nomadic and Christian elements are obviously seen regarding the design of the cathedral. Long halls, octagon, and altar are the most distinct signs of Christian castle while long sharp-ended towers, long naves, semicircle arches are a valid evidence of Nomadic architecture. Taking all these points into consideration, it is to be admitted that the following paper lingers upon the proving that The Cathedral of Nidaros remains to be a great symbol of Norwegian nation because of its outstanding history and unique architectural design.


Contextualizing of Design and Cultural Perpsectives

Nidaros Cathedral has become a significant sign of the Norman nation belonging to the Christian world. It is quite apparent fact regarding the architectural layout of the cathedral and the outlooks of local people concerning their religious beliefs and attitudes to the cultural heritage. One may argue that Christian involvement prevails in outlooks of Scandinavia’s citizens, but it is pivotal to mention that the cathedral is tending to follow the patterns of Norman architecture, which has enough evidence to be regarded as the origin of Gothic style. 

Speaking about elements of Norman architecture in the cathedral, it is to be admitted that Nidaros Cathedral as well as the other Nomadic temples, does not have a particular symmetry. Namely, it is quite possible to say that different sides of the cathedrals look differently so that one may perceive that as two different temples.

The cathedral, as pro-Norman temple, does not have a distinct siding so that it is possible to perceive different sides of the cathedral as two different building. It is a distinct feature of pagan temples, which is associated with Gothic style. Hence, this Norman feature makes local people value the cathedral as an emblem of national identity. This feature is known to be Gothic, but its origins are becoming apparent nowadays. In such a way, a cultural meaning of the cathedral is reflected in its architectural design. Despite of Norway’s being officially a Christian country, the cathedral is regarded as the symbol of national identity owing to the distinct Norman features in the design of the cathedral.     

The National Value

In regard to the cathedral in terms of the local respect, Nidaros Cathedral is the spiritual centre of Norway. First of all, it can be explained by the fact that the cathedral represents Norwegian character itself. The magnitude of the cathedral conveys the meaning of hard work, creativity, and scrupulous care, which are typical of Norwegian mentality. 

Second, the cathedral symbolizes the original religion of Norway. The images and of various mysterious creatures are the primary reflection of this symbolism. Again, it can be referred to Gothic style as it also uses mythological elements in the architectural design.

This is a typical reference to the pagan culture of Norway. In such a way, the cathedral reminds about the pagan past of Norwegian nation. As a result, it is one of the factors, which make the cathedral the national symbol as long as its design refers to the Norman history of the nation. Still, the cathedral represents the pagan origins of the country and emphasizes on the Norway’s belonging to the Christian world, as well.

Besides that, it is becoming increasingly apparent that such sophisticated building has involved a considerable amount of creativity, hard work, and care. Hence, investments in restoration can lead to the redevelopment of the national originality. As it has been mentioned in the previous paragraph, the cathedral can become a representation of Norwegian character:  care, originality, and conscientious work are typical of the Scandinavian nations. The design of the cathedral clearly demonstrates that regarding the magnitude of the building. The cathedral managed to save its significance though because of strong respect from the side of the average citizens. Surprisingly, all these hardships concerning the restoration of the cathedral influenced an increase in the respect of Nidarosdommen. Hence, the cathedral is valued by Norwegian society so that it can make an impact on the government. Having considered these points, it is to be said that Nidaros Cathedral remains emblematic not only in the 19th and the 20th century but possibly in the 21st, as well.


Authenticity of the Cathedral

It is possible to say that the cathedral is authentic not because of its material or architectural features but its significance in culture and history of Norway. To be more exact, the concept of Nidaros Cathedral is authentic. Christian layout and Norman design is quite an original mixture so that it is worth description. 

To be more specific, regarding Christian features, it is necessary to note such elements as large central hall with the altar and octagon under it. It is traditional elements of the majority of Christian temples. As for Norman features, it is to be admitted that high towers, portals, arches, and wall-size pictures are the evident sign of Norman, even pagan origins.

These portals are also the features of Norman culture. In such a way, the cathedral’s design witnesses about the Norman history of Norwegian nation. Namely, the cathedral may look not so unique, but its history and symbolic meaning can play an important role so that described above features of design are emblematic, as well.  Historically, this cathedral was supposed to be the place for crowning of the future kings of Norway. The significance of this place is quite evident. In a like manner, the Danish king Christian IV decided to keep the cathedral safe during the Black Plague while Norwegian population was in the decline. It is important to note that none of the palaces or any other churches were built while Nidaros Cathedral was valued by the foreign ruler, as well4. It is one more proof that the cathedral was a sacred place for many people, especially within 14th- 19th centuries so that it is still possible to restore a former importance of the cathedral.

On the contrary, the cathedral was affected by various damages. As a result, the octagon vault fell and the need for major restoration emerged in 1833. The interest in the restoration of the cathedral reached its peak at that time so that there was a chance for the cathedral to be restored.  The restoration started in 1869 though, but a meaningful work had been done. The nave, façade, rose window, and stained-glass windows received their former symbolism. 5 

Historic Implications

With regard to the historic perspective of the cathedral, it is crucial to admit that Norway was in a dubious situation concerning the economic obligations on the restoration of Nidaros Cathedral. In fact, Norway made a confident start of national growth, after British blockade6. As a consequence, the restoration of the cathedral is obviously logical in this case as long as it symbolizes the national identity of Norway.

In particular, as it has been mentioned before, the cathedral is built with soapstone, which is known to be weather-resistant. On the other hand, Norway had quite enough problems to solve as it had been affected by British blockade considerably. Still, the cathedral played its role as it is expected to play nowadays. The restoration of the cathedral helped the country to become recognized as proactively developing Scandinavian state.

The restoration was boosted by extremely poor condition of the cathedral. It was stuck with the lightning in 1719 and the fire destroyed the majority of construction. The restoration, however, started in 1869 again. The west nave was completely restored, and the octagon and the second altar were reconstructed again7. In such a way, it is possible to say that the government as well as the representatives of Norwegian intelligentsia were realizing the value of Nidaros Cathedral. The majestic look of the cathedral was extremely important because Norway was intending to have become commonly recognized as an independent state. 

Christian Perspective of the Cathedral

Besides the political, historic, and economic issues of the cathedral, the spiritual perspective is worth discussion, as well. In fact, Nidaros Cathedral was portrayed as the highest testament for the entire Norway, especially in times of cultural and political growth of the country. Norway was entirely Christian by that time so that the cathedral served the spiritual desires of the citizens. Moreover, pilgrims kept visiting the sacred place. Norway was becoming recognizable worldwide partially owing to a strong influence of the cathedral on the religious beliefs of Scandinavian people. Taking this point into consideration, the need for the restoration of octagon and the inner elements of central hall is quite obvious, as well. 

On the contrary, the restoration was still insufficient concerning the extents of the entire building. The cathedral has become a historical monument nowadays so that the contribution of the government in 1854 is valuable even today. Even more, the chairman of the society for the preservation of Norway’s ancient monuments, Nicolay Nicolaysen, expressed a strong enthusiasm regarding the restoration process. The Irish martyr-virgin St. Sunniva was associated with the cathedral because Nicolaysen was publically expressing the idea of Norway belonging to the Christian world8. He placed emphasis on the need for praying for St. Sunniva in the cathedral as long as the martyr and the cathedral represent the emblem of Christianity on Scandinavian land.

As a consequence Nidarosdommen includes the most distinct representations of Christian architectural design. Norway was mainly protestant country so that the cathedral represents a tolerance to the other branches of the Christianity while Protestants are known to be focused only on their own beliefs. Later on, the government approved the budget for restoration of the cathedral in 1854. As it has been already mentioned, the restoration started in 1869 though. Still, it is essential to note that it was one of the most “honest” architectural works in the entire history of Norway9. The “honesty” of the restoration refers to the fact that the the outer look of the Christian cathedral started reminding about the Norman past again: long naves, towers, and wall, carved with a sort of ancient runes are the direct reference to the pagan history of Norway. Newly emerging symbolic meaning of the cathedral was the most prominent result of the great restoration of Nidaros Cathedral. 

Eventually, it is the main points regarding the spiritual perspective of Nidaros Cathedral. As a result, Norwegian nation obtained one more unique feature: it had a pagan past and keeps valuing it while Christianity has contributed to the cultural heritage of the nation, as well. In the context of the cathedral and national identity, it can be considered as the sign of the proactively developing nation, which respects its history but looks ahead towards the acceptance of intercultural values. 


To sum up, it is necessary to admit that Nidaros Cathedral is an outstanding piece of the great restoration in Norway. It is a symbolic place for the entire Norwegian nation even though the cathedral has not been restored completely. Apparently, it plays a significant role in the national culture as long as it dates back to the times of the first attempts of Christian assimilation in Scandinavia. Subsequently, the cathedral started conveying the meaning of the worldwide recognition. The cathedral saved its Norman origins so that it can be claimed to be the first representative of Gothic style. Except these values, it is still a scared place for the local people, who regard Nirdaros Cathedral as a cultural center. It can be explained by the fact that the cathedral has quite long history, which was followed by various important events regarding the development of Norway as an independent state. Nidaros Cathedral is popular among the local people because they consider it to be the place of the original Norwegian religion. The cathedral contains elements of traditional Catholic churches and Norman architecture. In the same manner, Norwegians strongly believe that their original spiritual beliefs are referred to the Christianity and the pagan past. Therefore, the cultural value of the cathedral is mentioned in the national constitution of Norway. That places the emphasis on the evidence of the government’s being aware of such cultural relic. Needless to say, the government has its own understanding of Nidarosdommen’s value, but it only proves the importance of the cathedral for the entire country. The government’s opinion about the value of the cathedral was different alongside its entire history, but it is worth mentioning that there has been a little evidence of a total social ignorance concerning Nidaros Cathedral while the government neglected the cathedral for decades in the past century.             

By the same token, the Future Kings were supposed to be crowned in the Cathedral of Nidaros. Hence, it is possible to assume that the cathedral was representing the royal power in Norway as long as it was eligible for the arrangement of the crowning ceremonies. Again, this evidence emphasizes on the importance of the cathedral from the political perspective. The ceremony of crowning was becoming known across the entire Europe quite quick so that the location of ceremony was obviously mentioned many times. It made the cathedral recognizable worldwide. The significance of the cathedral for the government has become apparent as soon as the government adopted the plan of the cathedral’s restoration in 1851. This evidence proves the value of the cathedral regarding social, political, and even economic perspectives. The subsequent implementation of the restoration budget in 1854 and factual restoration underpinned this significance finally. The cathedral was restored but not entirely though. Unfortunately, it was the last major attempt to make the cathedral look as it was originally built. Simultaneously, the adoption of protestant Christianity in Norway has conveyed more sacred meaning of Nidaros Cathedral. First of all, it was the representation of the finally assimilated Christianity in Norway. Second, it was a symbol of royal divine power as long as protestant religion had become an official one and the Future Kings were expected to be crowned in the cathedral.        


All in all, it is to be said that the Cathedral of Nidaros is remaining to be a significant symbol of the great restoration in Norway. It is a great historic and cultural center even nowadays. Such value can be explained by the meaningful history of the cathedral and its original cultural origins. What is more, the cathedral can be regarded as a pioneer of Gothic style as long as it includes numerous typical elements such as high towers and semicircle arches. It is an ancient monument nowadays, but it still represents a cultural value and attraction for the tourists. Generally speaking, the Cathedral of Nidaros is the reflection of the Norwegian important events, especially the adoption of the Protestant Christianity. In consequence, Norway has become recognized worldwide that is why the cathedral plays such an important role in the history of the country. These values obviously witness about the significance of the cathedral for the present and future generations.

To the broadest extent, the Cathedral of Nidaros is a representation of the international culture. The cathedral symbolizes the merging of Norman and Christian cultures. It is abundantly obvious regarding the architectural layout of the cathedral: it has long “nomadic” naves, high towers, and wide windows while the inner structure is typical of early gothic cathedrals. Therefore, this evidence suggests that Nidarosdommen is one of the first representatives of Gothic style. In regard to the historic perspective of the cathedral’s intercultural value, it is worth saying that the cathedral is a place for the pilgrimage for the entire Northern Europe. This place is valued by Scandinavians so strongly because it reminds about the Norman origins of Scandinavia. In such a way, the Cathedral of Nidaros is both valuable as the element of the international culture and as a custom piece of ancient architecture, which dates back to the pagan past of Scandinavia.

Having considered all these points, it is necessary to admit that the preservation of such significant elements of national and world cultures are essential for the entire society, economy, and even politics. Even though the cathedral has not been restored completely yet, it plays an important role in the development of Norway because it reflects its national essence. One may argue that the prosperity of the country does not depend on the non-material values. In fact, the valuation of the culture is one of the distinct signs of the national prosperity as long as any developing country always preserves its culture. Namely, it is a mutual connection between the economy and culture, which should be commonly understood and accepted. Therefore, such significant pieces of national culture as Nidaros Cathedral should be restored and preserved for the contemporary and future generations.     


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