Mariakirken is an historic parish church in the central Bryggen area of Bergen, Norway. The church dates from the c12, and is said to be the oldest in Bergen. It is certainly the last remaining church from that early period. However, over the centuries the church has had to be repaired or reconstructed a number of times, not least due to fires – a problem arising in part from the close-built wooden houses and warehouses (as with the great fire of London). The last restoration was completed 4 years ago.

Marienkirken Bergen (Nina Aldin Thune / Wiki)

There was a service in progress when we walked up to the church from the harbour on a rather grey day. We had noticed people in Bunad (traditional costume) earlier, perhaps on their way to this church. So we headed for the splendid romanesque doorway, reminiscent of Norman architecture elsewhere in Europe.

The church is also known locally as ‘the German Church’. In the middle ages Bergen had a significant German population consisting mainly of the traders and merchants. Their wealth helped the Church to prosper. The strong connection continued until the late c19.

The details of the porch are most enjoyable, with the toothed arch, twist columns and arch, and its depth seeming to invite one inside. The carvings on the capitals are interesting, especially the creatures on either side – I have seen very similar early medieval ones in southwest France.  Next time we go to Bergen, we must investigate the interior…

General Church photo, Nina Aldin Thune / Wiki (my own was hopeless, as it turned out); rest © Keith Salvesen 

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