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The interior of Mariakirken, Bergen

The interior of Mariakirken (Egil Korsnes).

Apart from the king’s estate at Holmen, Håkonshallen and the lower floors of the Rosenkrantz tower, the three parish churches in the centre of Bergen are what have been preserved from medieval Bergen: Mariakirken, Korskirken and Olavskirken (the cathedral). The Romanesque base of the tower from Nonneseter monastery church on the spit between the two Lundegård lakes can still be seen in the landscape, while the other medieval buildings now lie in ruins: the town’s oldest town hall and wine cellar at Nikolaikirkealmenning, Lavranskirken and Maria Gildeskåle between Mariakirken and Bryggens Museum and the Katarina hospital on the north side of Dreggsalmenningen.

Mariakirken is the best preserved of the three medieval churches. It was constructed in the period 1140-1180 as a structure with three naves, a square chancel and two western steeples above the side nave. The chancel was extended following a fire in 1248. At the same time the northern steeple was re-erected and the southern steeple was raised. The strict two-steeple front of the church thus hails from the 1250s.

Originally only the church’s chancel was vaulted. It is assumed that following a fire in 1198 vaults were constructed above the central nave. These are so low that the light from the “clustered windows” is shut out from the church interior.

Thus it was that an old medieval church was transferred to the German merchants at Bryggen by the bishop of Bergen in 1408. It remained in the hands of the German merchants up to 1766. As late as 1874 a German congregation, which belonged to Mariakirken, existed in Bergen. The last German service was held in 1868. The church has preserved a unique interior, which amongst other things include a late medieval triptych with a representation of Maria and the apostles and a magnificently ornamented pulpit from 1676.

  • Lidén, H.-E. & Magerøy, E. M. (1980-1990) Bergen. Norges kirker. Oslo, Riksantikvaren.