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Stavanger Cathedral

Stavanger Cathedral (Norwegian: Stavanger domkirke) is Norway's oldest cathedral and the seat of the Bishop of Stavanger who leads the Diocese of Stavanger. It is located in the city of Stavanger in Rogaland county, Norway. The church is situated in the centre of the city, in the borough of Storhaug between Breiavatnet in the south, the square with Vågen in the north west, the cathedral square in the north, and Kongsgård in the southwest.

The church is part of the "Stavanger domkirke" parish in the Stavanger arch-deanery in the Diocese of Stavanger.


Bishop Reinald, who may have come from Winchester, is said to have started construction of the cathedral around 1100. It was finished around 1150: the city of Stavanger counts 1125 as its year of foundation. The cathedral was dedicated to Saint Swithun, an early Bishop of Winchester and subsequently patron saint of Winchester Cathedral. The church was initially the seat of the Diocese of Stavanger within the Roman Catholic Church until the Protestant Reformation.

Stavanger was ravaged by fire in 1272, and the cathedral suffered heavy damage. It was rebuilt under Bishop Arne (1276–1303) at which time the Romanesque cathedral was enlarged in the Gothic style.

In 1682, King Christian V decided to move Stavanger's episcopal seat to Kristiansand, in Kristiansand Cathedral. However, on Stavanger's 800th anniversary in 1925, King Haakon VII appointed Jacob Christian Petersen (1870-1964) to serve as Stavanger's first bishop in nearly 250 years.

Stavanger Cathedral

During a renovation in the 1860s, the cathedral's exterior and interior were considerably altered. The stone walls were plastered, and the building lost much of its medieval appearance. A major restoration led by architect Gerhard Fischer in 1939–1964 partly reversed those changes. The latest major restoration of the cathedral was conducted in 1999. Scottish craftsman Andrew Lawrenceson Smith (ca. 1620-1694) is well-known for his works in Stavanger Cathedral.

At the entrance to the sacristy there are sculptures of King Magnus VI, King Eric II and King Haakon V. The baptismal font is estimated to be from around 1300. The Bishop's chair is from 1925.

The Stavanger Cathedral basilica has three aisles with diaphragm arches and an elevated central nave of Romanesque design. At one end of the nave is a square chancel surrounding the altar. The central nave is an arcade with round pillars along its length. The capitals on the pillars contains many figures depicting scenes of Ragnarok (Scandinavian ‘End of Days’). Further masonry decorations include palmettes and arcatures on cornices.

The east exterior of the building has two towers that contain lancet windows. There are a variety of sculptures between the towers and central building.

Around the year 1660, the parapet of the gallery was decorated with motifs copied from the Cor Iesu Amanti Sacrum series, otherwise known as Emblems from the Heart. Of the original six motifs, three are on display in Stavanger Museum.

Stavanger Cathedral