Saturday, 25 November 2017

Harstad and the medieval Historical Center and Church of Trondenes, an Arctic treasure

The norwegian arctic town of Harstad, on the coastal island of Hinnøya, is not specially remarkable for ant feature except being close to Trondenes historic site. But as some possible Ultima Thule routes pass close by, Harstad deserves a short notice to start this trip.

Harstad, Norway

Coordinates: 68° 48′ N, 16° 32′ E
           (over 400km above the Arctic Circle)
Population:  ~25 000

The city sits by the Vågsfjorden, on the largest of the norwegian coastal islands, Hinnøya; Harstad grew up at the end of the 1800s as a traffic hub - North Norway's first dam ship's expedition was brought here in 1888.

The harbour area has been restored for leisure as well as a work and business area.

The recently renovated fast boat terminal, Hurtigbåtkaia.

The old building Havnebygget now hosts offices, a café, shops and the waiting room for the fast boat shuttle.

Bark, a fine restaurant and bar by the port

Hogskole (College), Havnegata.

A house in St. Olavsgate, the main street in Harstad.

A swiss-style house from 1930, St. Olavsgate 54.

Harstad has a pleasant city center; for some, it's even the 'Vågsfjord's gem'.

Harstad Sparebank's building, right in the center, was built in 1906 in Art Nouveau style.

Now let's have a short trip by the coastal road:

Just 4 km northwards, a Museum close to an early medieval 13th century church: Trondenes Historiske Senter.

Trondenes Church is the northernmost medieval stone church in Europe, north of the Arctic Circle. For ages it was the northernmost church in Christendom.

Trondenes Church

Location: 68° 49 N, 16° 33′ E

The church dates back to the 13th century, and was built over the ruins of two older viking "stave churches" ( 11-12th cent.), after the vikings lost the battle against the unification of Norway. It was completed around 1440.

The church is well preserved and the exterior is close to the original state. The plan is of the ancient type, with a choir narrower than the nave, rectangular and fortified, with narrow doors and windows. An external wall and towers used to add protection in case of assault.

It displays both romanic and gothic styles: arched doorways and thick walls, against attack from the Russians.

Main door
Side door

In the 1400s and 1500s, the population of Trondenes could harvest huge amounts of dried fish and collect export income on the international markets. Their wealth could sustain distinct church art and expensive maintenance.  That's whar the interior shows.

The larger nave is separated from the narrower altar nave by a wooden structure added in the 18th century, together with the baroque pulpit.

This is what was called a collegiate church - a church where several priesthoods prayed and worked together as in a college.

The baroque 'rococo' pulpit from 1792 is equipped with an hourglass to allow the minister to time long sermons.

The choir in the Trondenes church with its three altar cabinets.

The church is especially known for its rich decorations, including three gothic triptychs of hanseatic origin, probably from artisan masters in Lübeck, all beautifully decorated.

The three altar cabinets are dated to the period 1460-1500.

The small side-altar presents the sacred family. The cabinet is dated to the 1460s.

This hoist polichrome altarpiece was made in 1765.


The high altar:

Detail from the main altarpiece: veneration of Mary.

In the late Medieval period, Trondenes served as the main church centre of northern Norway. Together with Trondheim´s magnificent Nidaros cathedral, they make the most valuable legacy of medieval architecture in Norway.

They also testimony Norway's economic importance in late Middle Age, for the skills and means their building demanded. The fish trade between the Hanseatic towns in the North and Baltic Seas is the major origin of that norwegian wealth.

The Historic Center Museum

The museum displays more than 2,000 years of history in the region, which was once a Viking power centre. Paintings, artifacts and statues depict that rich History, the main focus being on the Medieval age period.

A magnificent tapestry depicting the Viking Era.

Trondenes Chuch in an old painting at the Historic Center. The fortified large complex, close to the busy fjord waters, must have been quite a religious as well as a business hub.