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Church ruins – St. Clement’s Church exhibition

Church ruins – St. Clement’s Church exhibition

In 2016, archaeologists believed they had found the famous “Klemenskirken” (St. Clement’s Church). Now it turns out that this is probably not true, and the exhibition must me revised.

The exhibition temporarily closed, pending the necessary revision.

Background 

When a new commercial building was planned in Søndre gate in Trondheim, major archaeological excavations were initiated in 2016. These were carried out by the Institute for Cultural Heritage Research (NIKU). 

NIKU then found traces of five wooden churches, built on top of each other throughout history. The oldest of these was named "Church A". A wealth of rich and interesting was made in this church: A stone altar, parts of a possible holy vessel, human remains and a crucifix. The first dating suggested that Church A was from the early 11th century. This age determination was based on tree-ring dating of the pillars of Church A, a grave and material from earlier buildings under the oldest church.

St. Clement’s Church is the only church in Trondheim that is mentioned in the saga from this period. The spatial location also suited well. It was therefore established that these were in all probability the remains of the old St. Clement’s Church. 

A grand exhibition was built, led by the The Directorate for Cultural Heritage in close collaboration with various professional environments. The hypothesis that this was the original St. Clement’s Church was naturally the basis for the exhibition, which was opened in May 2019.

New dating changed the story

In the summer of 2021, NIKU published its comprehensive final report on the excavation, with a thorough review of all finds. Here, more recent datings are presented, which clearly shake up the story formed about the St. Clement’s Church. Although the materials in Church A are from the period when Olav lived, samples taken below the church are dated to 1060. Thus, the church above cannot have been placed here by Olav Haraldsson since he was already dead.

In order for there to be a link between Olav and the church, one must hypothesize relocation and reuse of material. This is highly uncertain and impossible to prove. At present, it is therefore not possible to identify Church A as the St. Clement’s Church from the saga. We do not know who built Church A, which church it is or when it was built. The exhibition must therefore be revised.

After the report was published, experts have spent time identifying what needs to be changed. This work was carried out by a broadly composed scientific committee, consisting of representatives from NTNU, NIKU and Nidaros Cathedral's Restoration Workshop.

What happens to the exhibition now?

According to the plan, the exhibition will be reopened to the public at the end of 2023. The revision contains of necessary changes, which ensure that what is presented in the exhibition is correct. This work is financed by The Directorate for Cultural Heritage.

Eventually, there is a desire to develop the exhibitions further. What the new exhibition will be about is not yet clear. This is something that The Directorate for Cultural Heritage and University Museum at NTNU will collaborate on in the future.

Regardless of which churches these are, the discovery of five generations of churches from Trondheim's early history is nationally important. A stave church from the 11th century in an urban context is rare. The church therefore represents an important source material for knowledge about early Christian society. The exhibition room, with building remains visible on the floor, is a good starting point for disseminating this knowledge. We strongly believe that a revised exhibition, based on what we know today, will remain a source of pride for Trondheim and Norway.


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Where to find the exhibition:

Fasadebilde av bygget Kirkeruiner står i

Church ruins can be found in Krambugata

Opening hours:

Temporarily closed