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Hamre church, Osterøy

Hamre church (Svein Nord).

Hamre Church has, by all accounts been one of the four main churches in Horda County in the Middle Ages. Hamre was a main church for the whole of Hordaland. Timber remains in the present church show that there was a stave church here in medieval times.

The stave church had to make way for the church standing there today, probably in the first half of the 1600s. This church is a large, long church, with two narrow wings at the sidewalls, perhaps planned cross wings. In the west there is a tall tower, built as a stave structure, while the rest of the church is timbered. The outer cladding is tarred, and Hamre is one of the most authentic of the timber churches that took over from the stave churches after the Reformation.

The interior is lavish with decoration and inventory. The central part of the late medieval triptych hangs in the nave. It is most likely a North German piece of work from around 1500. The pulpit is from 1640, a key piece of work in the West Norwegian bruskbarokk tradition (a decorative form with twisted and intermingled forms). On the chancel ceiling, painted in 1653 we see the depiction of “The Scouts in Kanaan”, “Jacob’s dream”. “Abraham’s sacrifice” and “Samson fights a young Lion”. The nave has also been richly decorated. What is left of this decorative painting was exposed and restored in 1949. In the chancel we also find the medieval christening font of steatite, copies of a bishop’s chair from the 1690s and a medieval choir stall (the original is now in Bergen Historical Museum). In the tower foundation is the old church door from 1585, and on the wall there is a plank from a fixed bench in the chancel. The plank has two runic inscriptions, one of them as follows: “Here below rests the Virgin Margareta. Pray to Pater Noster for her soul”.

  • The triptych in Hamre church

Altertavla i Hamre kyrkje

The triptych, from 1622, bears the coat of arms and initials of the king’s servant Knud Gyldenstierne and his wife Sophia Lindenow painted on the base, “predella”. The triptych is decorated with exquisite renaissance décor, a central piece of work in West Norway. The side wings have so-called cartouche work with ornamentation, while flat carved tendrils decorate the centre. (Egil Korsnes).

Hamre parish

From the Middle Ages Hamre, or Hamarr parish, was one of the largest in West Norway. It extended from Sandviken near Bergen right up to Modalen and Eksingedalen. In 1622 the entire parish was subordinate to the headmastership of Bergen Latin School, in order to ensure a higher salary for the headmaster. He thus had to be parish priest at Hamre at the same time as he was manager of the Latin school and had to keep “two able and god-fearing Chaplains” to cover the church services in this large district. This arrangement was kept up until 1749. Then “Hamre parish …with regard to its size” was divided in two. Hamre parish was to cover Hamre, Meland and Alversund churches and Åsane chapel, while Hosanger included Hosanger and Seim churches, together with Mo and Flatekval chapel. For each parish there were 10-12 so-called mensalgardar, farms that were to provide the priest’s living.

  • Bergo, L. (1951) Hamre kyrkja. Bergen.
  • Litleskare, J. (1930) Hammarkyrkja fraa dei eldste tider til no. Bergen.