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Elias Fiigenschoug’s painting of Halsnøy monastery , 1656

From Elias Fiigenschoug’s painting from 1656 we may see how the estate looked at the time. Many of the buildings from the Middle Ages were still standing.

Halsnøy Monastery is situated in the midst of the lush fjord country in Sunnhordland, on one of the old spits, or “necks”, that has given name to the island. Gently sloping fields lead down to the sea on both sides, in the south towards the Kloster Fjord, to the north towards the sheltered Klostervågen.

Halsnøy Kloster was probably founded in 1163-64 by Erling Skakke, after the crowning of his son Mangus: “During the same crowning, Erling Skakke, the king’s father, promised to raise his son to worship at Halsnø Monastry, to Sancto Augustino’s praise and honour”. (Bergen’s Fundats 1580). Whether Erling donated land to the monastery from his own estate or from the king’s, we do not know, but there must have been a large and grand farm here before the monastery was founded.

Those who belonged to this Augustinian monastery were not monks in the normal sense of the word, but priests called regular canons or choir brothers. There were probably no more than 13 choir brothers in the monastery. In addition there were servants and others who were responsible for the running of the monastery.

Halsnøy became one of our biggest and most important monasteries in the Middle Ages. It had large land properties in West Norway, most of them in Sunnhordland and the north part of Ryfylke County. Around 1300 the monastery estate was rebuilt and expanded, and this is how the estate remained until the time of the Reformation. Then decay set in; the monastery had become a noble estate with alternating owners. In 1630 Erik Ottesen of Orning at Stord received authorisation from the king to take out 400 stones from the church ruins to restore the other buildings.

  • Sketch of Halsnøy monastary.

Sketch of Halsnøy monastary.

Sketch of the reconstruction gives us an idea of how the monastery estate may have looked: Monastery Church, eastern wing with main hall and dormitory, southern wing with dining hall. These buildings form a frame around the “claustrum”, the inner courtyard, which probably had a covered colonnade around it. The outer courtyard is surrounded by the buildings associated with the running of the monastery. Here there have been amongst other things guest house and “proventshus” for sick, old and poor people.

  • Færøyvik, B. (1934) Halsnøy-baaten. Norrøna bragarskrá, 8. árg.
  • Lidén, H.-E. (1961) Halsnøy kloster.
  • Magnus, B. (1980) Halsnøybåtens tekstiler. Arkeo, s. 22-25.
  • Myhre, B. (1980) Ny datering av våre eldste båter. Arkeo, s. 27-30.
  • Nerhus, H. (1957) Norges eldste landskapsmaleri og mesteren Elias Fiigenschoug. Oslo, Form og farge.
  • Sandvik, S. (1987) Halsnøy kloster: ein vegvisar i ruinane.
  • Skre, I. (1969) Noko om Halsnøy Klostergods. I: Sunnhordland Årbok. Stord, Sunnhordland museum, s. 12-27.
  • Utåker, A. (1981) Skule-Gunnnar. I: Sunnhordland Årbok. Stord, Sunnhordland museum, s. 57-60.