The church is built on the site of the old St. Lavrans Church. It was consecrated in 1858 and became the cathedral when the Tunsberg Bishopric, which covers the counties of Vestfold and Buskerud, was founded in 1948. Rebuilt by architect Arneberg in 1939. The pulpit (1621) originates from the Church of Our Lady as does the altar piece (1770). High Mass, Sundays, 11 am.
More information on Tønsberg Cathedral under the Castle Rock
From ancient times, Tønsberg has been an important ecclesiastical center in Norway. In the middle ages, there were as many as 7 churches and 3 monasteries in this small urban community. Unfortunately, nowadays there are only ruins remaining.
When Tønsberg Diocese was established in 1948, Tønsberg church (built in 1858), was renamed Tønsberg Cathedral. The cathedral is built over the ruins of St. Laurentius church, which was built in the first half of the 12th century and demolished in 1814.
Today, Tønsberg Cathedral is a church in the center of the city with pulsating activities just outside the church door and with restaurants on the pier as close neighbors. In recent years the cathedral has promoted itself as a "church for city" throught hosting various concerts and activities, not in the least of which is "Open Cathedral". With the help of volunteers the cathedral is kept open several afternoons and evenings throughout the year and with a special emphasis on the summer months. The Open Cathedral has become for many a haven in the midst of the noisy city. Outside the open cathedral door a sign and a burning candle lead the way to a place where one can light a candle, sit quietly, rest or wander around and let the symbols and art work speak to ones mind and senses. Many people use the opportunity for prayer and Bible reading.
Entering the cathedral gives one a sense of stepping back into time. Built in the mid 19th century, chief architect Christian Grosch designed the cathedral as a traditional gothic hall church and had it constructed of red brick. It was consecrated December 19, 1858. One discovers however that the interior and works of art are from a much older period. In 1939 extensive restoration work was carried out, led by architect Arnstein Arneberg, resulting in the architectural and artistic form the interior has today. Styles were mixed, and the interior was given the medieval style it has today. The city´s old "Church of St. Mary" was demolished in 1864, but fortunately, many of the interior artefacts were preserved. Both the altarpiece and the pulpit were in 1939 placed in the present day cathedral.
- The altarpiece depicts Jesus´struggle at Gethsemane. It was painted in 1760 by J. P. Lindegård. - The pulpit, created by unknown local artisans, is from 1621. It is richly carved including the four evangelists and their personal symbols. - The ship suspended above the center aisle from 1660, is also from St. Mary´s church. - The paintings on either side of the chancel depict Jesus´ babtism and the Last Supper and have previously hung in St. Mary´s church and in St. Laurentius´ church. - The Cathedral´s oldest treasures are two 16th Century Bibles, one from 1550 and one from 1589. - Three bells hang in the tower. The oldest dates from 1530 and comes from St. Mary´s church. The smallest of the three bells dates from 1685 and rang from St. Laurentius´ church. Tønsberg Savings Bank donated the largest bell in 1939. Thus, the bells of the Cathedral tie the town´s history back through the centuries.
During the restoration work in 1939, Per Vigeland´s beautiful stained glass windows were added. The windows in the chancel, with their vibrant colors, bear motives from the Book of Revelations. The windows in the nave on the north side depict persons from the Old Testament and those on the south wall portray persons from the New Testament and from church history.
Per Vigeland also did the beautiful fresco above the south door. Painted directly on the wall, it depicts Jesus as the Good Shepherd. In 1939, a new ceiling vault was built and decorated with patterns from the Oseberg Viking ship that was uncovered here in Tønsberg just 35 years previously (1904). In this way, Tønsberg Cathedral is an important witness to the history of Norway´s oldest town and reminds us of values that are passed on from generation to generation.
Tønsberg Cathedral as it stands today has also an important role as "The cathedral in the center of the city", serving both reidents and travellers. It is our wish that this cathedral be not just a museum, but also a structure of "living stones" offering the word of hope in this troubled world. Welcome to Tønsberg Cathedral, for a meeting with God and with His people!