Moster’s place in Norwegian church history

Moster old church is one of the simplest church buildings in Norway and is located on historic ground at Moster. According to Icelandic historian Snorri Sturluson, Olav Tryggvason celebrated mass and founded a church here in 995. Saint Olav and bishop Grimkjell held an assembly at Moster in 1024 where Christian law was introduced in Norway. It was long believed that Moster old church was the church founded by Olav Tryggvason, but thorough examinations in the late 19th century showed that this was not the case.
59,6991859 5,3857836
Tora Mostrastrongsveg 1, Mosterhamn, 5440

Mosterhamn, Hordaland (Vestland)

Owned by the National Trust of Norway since 1874.

Simple stone church furnished with fine gifts. Moster church was long held to be Norway’s oldest church. Examinations carried out in 1872 concluded that there was no definite proof that the church is that old, but that it was built before the end of the 12th century. This stone church is one of the simplest church buildings in Norway, with a square chancel and a rectangular nave. The only external decoration is the soapstone base around the whole church. Inside, the only ornamentation is found on the chancel arch. The only surviving part of the church’s medieval inventory is the church bell, which dates from the first half of the 13th century.

Major changes after the Reformation. The church’s interior underwent major alterations in the early 17th century. The internal walls are covered in post-Reformation mural paintings, and the oldest layer of paint has been dated to around 1600. Virtually all the furnishings are in the Renaissance style. In the 17th and 18th centuries, the church received many gifts from town dwellers and traders, including the large windows in the chancel and nave. But sailors in distress at sea also made donations to Moster old church. The officers of the Danish Indiaman Anna Sophia, who limped into Mosterhamn in 1722 after six weeks of storms and distress at sea, showed their gratitude by giving the church a valuable gift – a silver plate, baptismal booth and baptismal font.

Things to do in the area. A visit to the church will provide deeper insight in combination with a visit to the centre for religious and church history at Moster Amfi. Every summer, the Mostraspelet historical pageant I slik ei natt, written by Svein Tindberg, is performed. Musicals, concerts and other cultural events also take place here. The coast and coastal culture are important on Bømlo and in the Sunnhordaland region, and the possibilities for fishing and other outdoor pursuits are excellent.  

Sources: En reise gjennom norsk byggekunst, ed. Terje Forseth. National Trust of Norway, 1994. Moster. Trygg hamn i 1000 år. Øystein Ekroll. Boksenteret forlag. National Trust of Norway, 1995