Saturday, January 28, 2012

Kongsberg Church

Exterior view of Kongsberg Church
[photo: from Wikipedia]

There are old churches in Norway besides the Stave churches and so I was pleased to get some inside pictures of the church at Kongsberg, Buskerud, Norway from Bjørn Arnhaug.* Buskerud is the county or fylke between Telemark to the southwest and Oppland to the northeast but also touching Olso on the east. Kongsberg itself is in the western portion of the county. This area is known for its old mines where silver was discovered in 1623.

Close up view of Kongsberg Church showing the completion date of 1761
[photo courtesy of Bjørn Arnhaug]

After the silver was discovered King Christian IV decided to make the town a royal residence and then in 1631 a church was also built there. Unfortunately both the royal residence and the original church burnt down that same year and were never rebuilt. Construction for the replacement church quickly began at the northern part of the cemetery. It was an east-west cruciform church. However, since it was constructed of wood it began to need extensive maintenance and renovations that were proving to be too costly so it was decided to design and build an entirely new church. The architectural design proposed by Joachim Andreas von Stukenbrock, a sober priest, was submitted for approval in 1739 and in 1740 construction began. There was a 17-gun salute when the foundation stone was laid. Stukenbrock died suddenly in 1756 so he never did see the finished church.

Today buildings go up so fast, even huge skyscrapers, that it is difficult to comprehend the amount of time and man-hours it took in the 1700s to build something like this church that required 21 years to complete. The exterior is made of red brick and is described as austere in appearance. The inside is richly decorated in a Baroque/Rococo style with chandeliers made at the Nøstetangen Glass Works located in neighboring Hokksund. Kongsberg church has a seating capacity of 2,400 making it still one of the largest churches in Norway. For more information about the community of Kongsberg please see

The church has a 2.5-ton bell and a carillon. The bells of the carillon were funded by donations from local businessmen whose names can be found on the individual bells.

Looking down at one of the chandeliers
[photo courtesy of Bjørn Arnhaug]

Interior with chandeliers from a different angle.
[photo courtesy of Bjørn Arnhaug]

Like the church at Hornnes the interior is wooden but various parts are painted and treated to look like marble. The only piece made of true marble is the font. The builder, Brede Rantzau, was primarily a carpenter but he also made two altar figures.

The altar area
[photo courtesy of Bjørn Arnhaug

The pulpit
[photo courtesy of Bjørn Arnhaug]

This close up view of the pulpit shows the marbleized wood on the wall and pillars. The bottom portion of the pulpit can also be seen in the picture of the altar area above.

The Royal Box
[photo courtesy of Bjørn Arnhaug]

Notice the soft blue interior color with gold accents, the marbleized pillars and insets along the upper level. There is a series of paintings in the middle area.

Another wall painting
[photo courtesy of Bjørn Arnhaug]

The organ
[photo courtesy of Bjørn Arnhaug]

The original organ dated from 1765 but suffered water damage following a fire in the church attic in the 1880s. There were insufficient funds to restore the organ until Tinius Olsen made a generous donation in 1928. Instead of restoring the old organ a completely new organ was built then housed behind the Baroque façade. The newer organ was closed in 1994 due to concerns about fire danger and the general lack of quality. A new campaign for donations was successful and the organ was dismantled and sent away for extensive restoration. It was rededicated in 2001 and has since been used by national and international organists with some recordings having been made.

Looking up at the ceiling.
[photo courtesy of Bjørn Arnhaug]

The Kongsberg church is considered a masterpiece. From these pictures I would agree that it is.


* Bjørn sent several photographs from his album and since I couldn't use all of them in the post I tried to choose enough for variety and representation. He also translated some of the historical information and that was much appreciated. The pictures are beautiful and I thank him so much for sharing them with us.

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