The bells were ringing again this week at many historic churches around Norway, and church-goers could see some results of the left-center government’s crisis package that’s saving them from years of neglect.
The Labour Party-led government forked over NOK 1.2 billion last year for badly needed maintenance of the state-owned churches, after receiving a report on their poor condition. Some estimates indicated it would cost NOK 1 billion just to bring the churches’ electrical systems up to current standards.
Other problems included mildew damage and dry rot, since the majority of the country’s 1,620 churches are made of wood. Fully 980 of the churches, many of them built several centuries ago, are on state historic conservation lists.
Norway’s famed stave churches long had priority when state funds were earmarked for church maintenance, but in 2009 the government allocated funds for maintenance of church buildings all over the country. Billions more are needed, reports newspaper Aftenposten, but last year’s extraordinary funding provided a starting point.
“We have a huge backlog of maintenance needs, but see some improvements now, also since many local governments are taking advantage of interest-free loans from the state to launch rehabilitation work,” Ingrid Staurheim of the church association KA (Kirkelig arbeidsgiver- og interesseorganisasjon) told Aftenposten.
Among the churches benefiting from the rehab work this holiday season was the historic church in Røros, which reopened after a major upgrade. All its paintings and decor were cleaned, new floors and floor heating were installed, the church’s fire alarm system was improved and its foundations treated for mildew.
Oslo’s Domkirke (Cathedral) also reopened recently after a major renovation, as has Nidarosdomen in Trondheim, Sankt Petri Church in Stavanger and Mariakirken in Bergen. Churches in Holmestrand and Kongsberg and stave churches at Borgund, Høyjord and Urnes are also receiving emergency aid.