Margrete Helen Syrstad Andås

Postdoctoral Fellow Department of Art and Media Studies Faculty of Humanities
+47 73591834
Dragvoll, Edvard Bulls veg 1, Bygg 7 * 7531

Background and activities

Research Group: Reframing the Margin. The Role of Marginal Imagery in the Construction of the Sacred

From the earliest days of Romanesque until the end of the Gothic we find a large body of motifs that are neither biblical nor narrative. The popularity of fighting beasts, grotesque masks, and expressive faces was long-lived. These images often appear in the margins, and may thus be seen as commenting upon and defining the centre. One may find apt explanation for singular motifs, but mostly, these images are not presenting us with a puzzle, if only the right set of texts are studied. Often, their decorative qualities are far more obvious than any religious (or other) content This form of imagery challenges traditional iconography.

The field of medieval art history has debated the meaning of such images since the mid-nineteenth century. The interest in this art of ‘indeterminability’ has increased since the early 1990s, as they have been debated within the framework of ‘the monstrous’ or ‘the marginal.’ Accordingly, they are often referred to as ‘marginal art.’ The rise of visual studies has offered yet another chance to examine this puzzling and gripping artistic vocabulary. A substantial amount of the preserved material from medieval Norway feature such motifs. It is the ambition of the IKM research group to debate local exampled and conventions within their larger context. The group has a core of three medievalists, all in their different ways concerned with the ‘marginal’s’ role in the construction of the sacred. Ingrid Lunnan Nødseth debates how materiality and use of such motifs in textiles contributes towards the construction of the sacred. Margrete Syrstad Andås examines the role ‘marginal imagery’ in the creation of sacred spaces in stone and stave churches, whereas Margrethe Stang directs her attention towards the altar, and the mimic features of evil in panel painting as means of constructing the sacred.

Images of Entry

The project examines visual and literal images of religious entry from the North from the period c.1100-1350. From a theological perspective, soul and space were important to salvation history. The understanding of sacred space changed from the early to the high middle ages, when sacred space was considered to be qualitatively different form the space outside. The project examined literal and visual images of entry, as they appear on church portals and baptismal fonts. A substantial part of the motifs here met with are of the type traditionally labelled” marginal art,” which is a genre of motifs explored within the framework of NTNU project Reframing the Margin.


The Trondheim Cathedral. Histories Behind History

This monograph is financed by the Norwegian Non-fiction Writers And Translators Association (NFF). The book project is directed towards a wide audience, and consists of ten essays on medieval objects and elements which may still be seen in the Cathedral today. The texts aim to show how for instance sculpture, inscriptions, or portals, tell stories about a culture and a mind-set very different from our own.

Research interests:

Sacred space and religious symbolism

Liturgical and secular processional practices and the use of space

Liturgical and regal rituals in medieval Scandinavia

Portal iconography


Notions of purity/impurity in medieval legal and theological texts and in religious practices

Early Gothic architecture


Biography: Ph.D. from the Danish National Research Foundation’s Centre of Excellence for the Study of the Cultural Heritage of Medieval Ritual, University of Copenhagen, spring 2013; BA and M.Phil. from the University of Oslo 200. Lecturer in Art History and Church History at NTNU, the University of Oslo, and the University of Copenhagen 2002-2013. Fellowships and Grants: Authors´ grant from NFFO 2012-2013; Research fellow, the Strathmartine Research Centre, St. Andrews, fall 2006; NORFA Research fellow, Center for Medieval Studies, UiO, Spring 2005; Fulbright Research fellow, Divinity School, Yale University, 2001-2002.


On-going book projects (for summaries, se above):

Images of Entry. Cases from the North.

Nidarosdomen. Historier bak historien.


Latest talks and conference papers:

"Revisiting Stve Church Portal Iconography: The Case of Nesland III," The Completion of the Stave Church Programme - what have we learnt?, Riksantikvaren, Oslo 14.-15. juni 2016. 

Prophetic Materiality; Rauðúlfs þáttr and metals as religious-political symbols,” Matter and Materiality, Conference University of Oslo, December 2015

"Fra vugge til grav. Kirkerommet i middelaldermenneskets liv," Stiklestadseminaret, November 2015

”Prosesjoner i byrommet. Et foredrag om det rituelle livet i middelalderens Nidaros og om gangr som uttrykksform,”Fortidsminneforeningens foredragsserie, April 2015

“Synd og fortapelse i kunst fra middelalderens Trøndelag,” Kunnskapsbyen Trondheim, February 2015

“Dåpen og Kunsten,” NDR og Norsk Pilegreimssenters konferanse om Dåpen, November 2014

”Marias minner, mors minner, mine miner. Halbwachs, Nora og Kvinners kirkegang,”

IKM seminaret, June 2014


Latest seminar organized;

“Stavkirkene og forskingen,” funded by Riksantikvaredn, NTNU and Folkemuseet på Sverresborg, September 13-14, 2014.



Imagery and Ritual in the Liminal Zone. A Study of Texts and Architectural Sculpture from the Nidaros Province c. 1100-1300, Doctoral dissertation. Det teologiske Fakultet, Københavns Universitet, Copenhagen 2012.


Architectural and Ritual Constructions. The Medieval Cathedral of Trondheim in a European Context. Ritus et Artes, Vol. 3 (Turnhout, Brepols 2007), eds.: Margrete Syrstad Andås, Øystein Ekroll, Andreas Haug and Nils Holger Petersen.


”Fra vugge til grav. Kirkebygget i middelaldermenneskets liv.” In Værnes kirke, ed. Morten Stige og Kjell Erik Petterson, forthcoming 2016.

”Prosesjoner i byrommet i middelalderens Norge.” In (GEN)KLANGE, Essays om kunst og kristendom tilegnet Nils Holger Petersen på 70-årsdagen. Publikationer fra Det Teologiske Fakultet 62, Kristoffer Garne and Lars Nørregaard (Eds.)((København: Københavns Universitet 2016), 47-55. 

“Hinn helgi æysteinn erkibiskup: Presteskapets egen helgen?” In Kristin Bjørlykke, Øystein Ekroll, Birgitta Syrstad Gran og Marianne Hermann (eds.): Eystein Erlendsson – Erkebiskop, politiker og kirkebygger (Trondheim, Nidaros domkirkes restaureringsarbeiders forlag 2012), 149-167.

“Relikviekapell og kongelig mausoleum?”, in Kristin Bjørlykke, Øystein Ekroll and Birgitta Syrstad Gran (eds.): Nidarosdomen – ny forskning på gammel kirke (Trondheim, Nidaros domkirkes restaureringsarbeiders forlag 2010), 296-318.

"The Octagon Doorway: A Question of Purity and Danger?" In Kristin Bliksrud Aavitsland and Margrethe Stang (Eds.): Ornament and Order. Essays on Viking and Northern Medieval Art for Signe Horn Fuglesang (Trondheim, Tapir 2008), 97-134.

“Introductory Note to Christopher Hohler’s “The Palm Sunday Procession and the West Front of Salisbury Cathedral”, in Margrete Syrstad Andås, Øystein Ekroll, Andreas Haug and Nils Holger Petersen (Eds.):  Architectural and Ritual Constructions. The Medieval Cathedral of Trondheim in a European Context. Ritus et Artes, Vol. 3 (Turnhout, Brepols 2007), 279-284.

“Art and Ritual in the Liminal Zone”, in Margrete Syrstad Andås, Øystein Ekroll, Andreas Haug and Nils Holger Petersen (Eds.):  Architectural and Ritual Constructions. The Medieval Cathedral of Trondheim in a European Context. Ritus et Artes, Vol. 3 (Turnhout, Brepols 2007), 47-126.

”Spor etter religiøs praksis på Tingvoll på 1200-tallet: Om innvielseskors, altre, portaler og alt detaljer kan fortelle ”, in Terje Spurkland og Morten Stige (Eds.): Tingvoll kyrkje. Gåta Gunnar gjorde, (Trondheim, Tapir 2006), 159-176.

“Hvor marginal er marginen. Om blottere i sentrum og konger i periferien”, in Kersti Markus (Ed.): Bilder i MarginenNordiska studier i medeltidens konst, (Tallin, Argo 2006), 139-158.

“A Royal Chapel for a Royal Relic?”, Senter for Middelalderstudiers Skrifter, (Trondheim, Tapir 2004), 173-19.

”Merker i stein: Om bygghytten ved Domkirken på erkebiskop Øysteins tid”, Trondhjemske samlinger (Trondheim 2003), 25-41.

”Smekre vannlilejkapiteler og rike chevroner: Spor av Yorkbygghyttens folk i Trondheims- og Bergensområdet 1160-80”, Årbok for Foreningen til norske fortidsminnesmerkers bevaring 2001, (Oslo, 2002), 75-89.

M.Phil. dissertation:

Skrudhuset ved Nidarosdomen. Form og funksjon. University of Oslo 2000, Vol. I-II, Unpublished M. Phil. Dissertation, Vol I: 1-200, Vol II, bilder: 1-50.

Scientific, academic and artistic work

A selection of recent journal publications, artistic productions, books, including book and report excerpts. See all publications in the database

Part of book/report

  • Andås, Margrete Syrstad. (2016) Kirkebygget i middelaldermenneskets liv. Værnes kirke - en kulturskatt i stein og tre.
  • Andås, Margrete Syrstad. (2016) Prosesjoner i byrommet i høymiddelalderens Norge. (Gen)klange.