Ruins

Published by the Directorate for Cultural Heritage Lag rapport Les på norsk

There are about 100 ruins of medieval buildings and other stone structures in Norway. Most of them are churches, but there are also remains of monasteries and castles. Compared to other countries in Europe, we have very few contructions made of stone from the Middle Ages. It is therefore important to preserve the ones we have. 

The ruins are in better condition

The term ruins is defined here as the remains of constructions of stone or bricks from before the Reformation (1537). In Norway, most medieval ruins are remains of great monuments such as churches, monasteries, castles and fortresses.

Through studies of shape, building methods and building materials, we can gain knowledge about the function, architecture and construction, dating, what activities have taken place and what has happened to the building or structure after it was no longer in use. Less monumental ruins, such as cellars under farm buildings, are also important sources of knowledge of medieval society and culture.

Most medieval ruins in Norway have been in a poor condition. Therefore, the Norwegian Directorate for Cultural Heritage has started a conservation programme for the protection of the most important ruins. When this work is completed, regular maintenance of the ruins will be required in order to secure good condition. 

The conservation of a selection of church ruins and ruins of monasteries, castles and fortifications is well under way. In autumn 2012, the castle at Sverresborg, which is located outside Trondheim, was completed. Thus, Norway's oldest stone castle from the 12th century can be seen in new splendour.

Frost damage threatens the ruins

Ruins are threatened by exposure to the elements such as frost damage, running water and unchecked vegetation, wear and tear. 

In Norway, the main cause of damage to ruins is frost damage.

Many ruins are also damaged by vegetation. The main reason is that vegetation stores moisture that expands when it freezes, so there is a risk of frost damage. Climate change can also lead to more vegetation, which in turn may cause overgrowing of ruins. Furthermore, roots from plants that grow in cracks in the ruins may cause damage.

Need for conservation and maintenance

To ensure that the ruins are in an ever better condition and made more accessible to the public, a conservation programme has been launched by the Directorate for Cultural Heritage. Thorough conservation work is carried out through the conservation programme.

The most important, easiest and cheapest measure to maintain a ruin is nevertheless regular maintenance. Removing vegetation and clearing the area surrounding the ruin are important measures. This will make it easier to see the ruin in connection with the surrounding landscape, and will also improve visitors experience of the ruin.