A mighty ruin left by Norway’s last Catholic archbishop

The ruined Steinvikholm castle still makes a grand impression lying on an islet in the Trondheimsfjord. It was once a heavily fortified castle, built between 1525 and 1532 by Norway’s last Catholic archbishop, Olav Engelbrektsson. The castle was built to demonstrate and consolidate the power of the church and the archbishop during a period of intense power struggle and great social changes.
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Steinvikholmen, Skatval, 7510

Skatval, Stjørdal, Trøndelag

Owned by the National Trust of Norway since 1894.

A cultural heritage site of national importance. The archbishop lived at Steinvikholm castle during the turbulent years around the Reformation in Norway. The bishop was the head of the State Council (the government of Norway) and a key figure in the fight for the crown of Norway and the power of the Catholic Church. The teachings of Martin Luther were an ideological factor in this fight. Many of the treasures of Nidaros Cathedral, including the reliquary containing the remains of Saint Olav, were kept at Steinvikholm during this period. Engelbrektsson fled from Norway in 1537 and took refuge in the Netherlands, where he died in 1538. On Steinvikholm islet, a castle with outdated defences was left to fall to ruin, and local people also helped themselves to stone for their own use.

Brought to light again. A systematic excavation of Steinvikholm castle was initiated in 1894 after the Trøndelag branch of the National Trust of Norway had taken over the property. The ruin was excavated and conserved as seen today between 1894 and 1900. The castle is nearly square with two turrets located diagonally in relation to each other, Bonden (‘the farmer’) and Vanntårnet (‘the water tower’). The walls are four metres thick, while the biggest turret, Bonden, has walls that are an impressive five metres thick. Steinvikholm is a historical site where the ruin bears witness to a dramatic and important story about people, power and conflict at the time of the Reformation in Norway.

Things to do in the area. Stjørdal is 33 kilometres from the city of Trondheim, and Trondheim Airport, Værnes makes it the gateway to experiences in Trondheim and the Trøndelag region. Stjørdal offers farm activities, rock art, cultural activities, outdoor pursuits and fishing – and much, much more. 

Sources: En reise gjennom norsk byggekunst, ed. Terje Forseth. National Trust of Norway 1994 / (October 2017) /Steinvikholm slott – på overgangen fra middelalder til nyere tid. Sæbjørg Walaker Nordeide. NIKU Temahefte 23.