If stones could speak, Trondheim's Nidarosdomen, Europe's northernmost gothic cathedral, could tell tales that span a millennium.

Norwegian kings and Viking raiders, fervent believers and modern day musicians have all sheltered in the cool recesses of its arched naves. The church, which honours St. Olav, has been a destination for pilgrims for centuries.

Nine centuries and counting
The most striking aspect of the cathedral is no doubt the spectacular west front and twin towers, along with its copper-clad single spire. Fifty-nine statues fill the niches in the west front, with a stained glass rose window front and centre. Religious buildings have stood on this spot since AD 1035, when a wooden church was first erected to honour St. Olav. More than nine centuries, at least five fires, and numerous restoration efforts later, the cathedral stands as we see it today.

A history in stone
It’s easy enough to find a standard history of the cathedral that will tell you what was built when, but at least one NTNU student took a different approach to the structure – just ask Per Storemyr, a geologist who wrote his doctoral dissertation on “The Stones of Nidaros: An Applied Weathering Study of Europe’s Northernmost Medieval Cathedral” for the Department of Architectural History in 1997.

Flying buttresses and acid rain
Storemyr traced the history of the cathedral partly through the type of stone used to build it – and was able to locate at least 60 different domestic and international stone quarries that supplied building stone over time. His investigations also showed that at least some of the church’s problems with structural cracks were not caused by acid rain or weathering per se, but instead were due to other structural problems, such as extensive water damage and the use of undersized flying buttresses, particularly in the choir.