Lofoten’s Churches and monasteries

There are many distinctive churches in Lofoten that, in addition to being a meeting place for the local population, also to a large extent help convey knowledge of Lofoten's culture and history. A number of them are presented in more detail below:

2013-07-0113:39 Mariell Hagen

Many Norwegian churches are also open to the public after church service hours - and you are welcome to have a look inside.

Study the church's interior furnishings and decorations, enjoy a quiet moment of meditation, light a candle.

A roadside church is a church which:- is in the near vicinity of a main road - is open for at least three weeks of the summer, at least five days a week and at least five hours a day - has a host and serves light refreshments - offers information material - has access to public conveniences

50 churches in Norway have status as roadside churches. A couple of hundred others are also included on the list. These are churches with varying opening times and services.

Vågan Church - "Lofoten Cathedral"

Vågan Church, also known as Lofoten Cathedral, was consecrated in October 1898 and is situated at Kjerkvågen, approx. 2 km east of Kabelvåg. It is a timber-built cruciform church in the Neo-Gothic style and can seat up to 1200 people. It was designed by architect Carl Julius Bergstrøm. Today's church replaced an older one built in 1798 that was considered too small. The new church is the biggest wooden building north of Trondheim. The timber used to build it was supplied by the Jacob Digre timber company of Trondheim. The sections which the building consists of were prefabricated at the factory in Trøndelag and assembled in Kabelvåg.Kabelvåg has been a parish centre for about 900 years. Lofoten's first church was built there during the reign of King Øystein Magnusson. Five or six different churches have been located in the vicinity of today's site. One of the earlier churches was moved to Værøy in 1799. Lofoten Cathedral was built to accommodate all the fishermen who came to Kabelvåg during the fishing seasons.

Flakstad Church

Flakstad Church was built in 1780 and is thus the second oldest church in Lofoten. But there had been a church in Flakstad long before then. The old church was built as early as 1430, but was wrecked by a storm in the 1700's. The new church was built around the old ruins, so that people could continue to go to services while construction was in progress.The church in Flakstad is a so-called cruciform church, which means that it was built in the shape of a cross. The timber used for construction came from Russia, as a result of a bartering agreement involving stockfish, the so-called Pomor Trade. One of the chandeliers in the church also comes from their neighbours in the east.

The church is easy to see from the E10 and is due north of Ramberg.

The "Rorbu" Chapel in Stamsund

In the very heart of Stamsund, in the characteristic row of rorbu cabins (fishermen's cabins) down by the wharf, a quayside chapel has been established, where locals and tourists can go for a moment of peaceful contemplation.An altar has been erected in one of the aforementioned rorbu cabins, but it has not replaced the fishing gear there. The atmosphere in this cabin-cum-chapel is most definitely still maritime. Curtains have been replaced by fishing nets, and chairs and tables have been replaced by newly cleaned wooden crates that in the old days were used to store fish. One hundred year old herring crates have been hung up on the walls to frame bible verses in several languages. The altar depicts a quay with the lush green Lofoten mountains in the background, and on this quay there is a very rare cross. At the foot of the cross there is an anchor with two lanterns beside it. The cross was made from part of one of the ribs of an old, foundered ship that had arisen from the dark depths of the sea. There are rusty nails in the cross, reminding us of the suffering of Jesus.

Svolvær Church

Svolvær Church is beautifully situated in Svolvær town centre. In 2009, this distinctive church that was built in 1934 with funds donated by the local population, will be 75 years of age. The whitewashed church is built of concrete and has tall, narrow round arched windows. The nave is steeply gabled, while the steeple culminates in a low spire.

Borge Church

The modern church at Borg, Vestvågøy, towers up from a hilltop to the west of the Viking Homestead, Lofotr. The church, which was designed by the local architect Knut Gjernes, is humorously referred to by the locals as the ski jump. With its upturned appearance, the building has a strong affiliation with the surrounding mountaintops.

Værøy Old Church

The red-painted church in Nordland on the island of Værøy is the oldest church in Lofoten. Around the year 1790 a storm destroyed the existing church there. At the same time, a bigger church was needed in Kabelvåg, and it was therefore decided that the old one should be relocated to Værøy. Consequently, a new church was built in Kabelvåg, and Værøy got a "new" church, too. There has probably been a church in Værøy since the 1400's, and it has most likely always been situated in Nordland. However, in 1939 a new church was built on the southern side of the island where most of the population actually lived.

The church in Nordland is still in use every fourth Sunday. In 1799 it was too big for the tiny parish of Værøy, but the population increased and gradually demands were made for an extension to the church. Consequently, in the years around 1900, it underwent substantial redevelopment. On the ceiling inside the church, you can still see how big, or small, the previous church actually was. The decorative art from the really old church in Værøy can today be found at Tromsø Museum. The altarpiece dating back to about 1750, however, came with the church that was relocated from Vågan. The inlaid alabaster figures in this altarpiece were made in Nottingham, England around the year 1430 and are among the best preserved in Norway. The old pulpit, the font and the peculiar crosses all date back to about the 1600's and are from the old church in Værøy.

The Church Ruins in Røst

A stone church was consecrated in Røst by Bishop Kierschow in 1839. It was erected in accordance with architect Lindsow's standard design for country churches, but is, as far as we know, the only "standardised" church to be built of stone. In this way, one hoped to protect it against harmful storms. The church was in use until the year 1900, when it was considered too small, and demolished by royal decree the following year.

Røst Church

Røst Church is situated in Røst in the county of Nordland. It is a rectangular, timber-built church with 278 seats, built in 1899. It was consecrated on 26 September 1900 and restored in 1971. The triptych in Røst Church was donated by Princess Elisabeth of the Netherlands around the year 1520. She had encountered a storm on her voyage to Copenhagen where she was to be Christian II's bride, and subsequently donated triptychs to five churches along the coast of Norway as a token of gratitude to the Almighty for helping her to survive.

Hol Church

On a small hill about three kilometres from Leknes, we find Hol Church. In the old days, it was normal to build churches on sites with an unhampered view, so that they were easily visible and accessible from both sea and land. Hol Church, however, is rather remote and relatively difficult to get to, both from land and sea. Hol Church is a white-painted cruciform church with a hipped roof of slate and a small steeple, a ridge turret, above the crossing. It is a cogged timber building, faced externally with horizontal panelling. It is a simple, stylistically consistent Empire church with tall round-arched windows. The main entrance and vestibule face the west in accordance with tradition, and in the northern arm there is an entrance that leads directly into the nave itself.The first church in Hol was built in the Middle Ages. It was an annex of Buksnes Church where the vicarage was situated. Today's Hol Church has been listed for protection by the Directorate of Cultural Heritage, as a church building from the period of 1650-1850.

Buksnes Church

Buksnes Church is situated in Gravdal in the borough of Vestvågøy in the county of Nordland. It is a rectangular church built of timber in the dragon style of architecture, and seats 600 people. It was consecrated on 22 November 1905 and restored between 1965 and 1967.

Moskenes Church

Moskenes Church is situated adjacent to the ferry docks in Moskenes. It is a timber-built cruciform church built in 1819. The interior furnishings date back to 1564.

Reine Church

The wooden church in Reine was built in 1891. Nearby there is a monument that includes a copper relief in memory of all of those who have lost their lives at sea in Lofoten over the past 100 years. It was made by Reine-born artist Herman Bendixen.

Sildpollnes Chapel

The chapel is situated at Sildpollneset in the Austnesfjorden in the borough of Vågan. It was built as a meeting house in 1891 and consecrated as a chapel in 1960. The chapel on the headland at Sildpollneset is a popular photo motif.

Sources: Church of Norway, A Guide to Art in Lofoten, The Architectural Guide to North Norway and Svalbard, Lofoten's municipal and church councils.