Tuesday, May 20, 2008

In the foot steps of pilgrims and crusaders

Some places you feel the heart beat of history. This is certainly the case when visiting Ringsaker church, located by lake Mjøsa in one of the wealthiest and most fertile regions of Norway. This is the region of mansions, and one of the strongholds of several old Norwegian noble families. At the mighty Ringsaker church you can clearly feel the continuity to time of crusaders and pilgrims.

Ringsaker church is the largest of the medieval churches still standing by the banks of Lake Mjøsa. It is said that the first church was built in wood by Sigurd I Jorsalfare - Norways crusader king.

Sigurd was son of King Magnus III Berføtt that died only 30 years old in Ulster - Northern Ireland in 1103. Magnus was King of Norway and of the Isle of Man. Sigurd reigned from 1103 to 1130.

Sigurd earned the nickname Jorsalafari ("Jerusalem-farer"), as he in 1107, led a band of Norwegians to support the crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem, thus being the first European king to go on crusade.

He fought in Lisbon, various Mediterranean islands and Palestine, and visited king Roger II of Sicily in Palermo, Jerusalem (Jorsalaland) and Constantinople (Miklagard). He joined forces with Baldwin I, King of Jerusalem to capture the coastal city of Sidon in 1110.

Sigurds is buried in the St. Hallvard Church in Oslo, now in ruins.

The present church is a cross shaped building built in the middle of the 12th century. It is one of a kind, maybe modeled from the Cathedral at Hamar. The characteristic pointed tower was built in 1695.

The building is packed with architectural gems, as this iron door, through which pilgrims may have walked during medieval times. Another interesting detail are two clover shaped windows over the main doorway.

This beautiful altar piece is Dutch carved in wood in 1520. The master of this beautiful piece of art was Robert Moreau, a French sculptor that settled in Antwerp in 1533. It has 127 gilded statues.

It was a gift from the last Roman Catholic / first Lutheran vicar Ansten Jonsson Skonk. The presence of such a piece of art clearly shows that Ringsaker was not a cultural back water, but was linked to, and an important part of European culture.

Another interesting detail is the wall paintings

Here you see a European trading vessel reminding you of those ships that crossed the oceans and discovered new worlds at the turn of the 16th century. You can even see part of its name ..NGHELP..., and the flag is waiving in the wind - a red cross on a white background with a lily on the top of the cross.

The church at Ringsaker, is, with the church at Stange landmarks from a time when the pilgrims walked to visit the shrine of Saint Olaf, the eternal king of Norway buried at Nidaros Cathedral, and when crusaders left to fight in the Holy Land. If you travel through Hedmark, it is highly recommended to visit the church at Ringsaker to feel the heart beats of history.

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