Oslo’s more than 300-year-old Domkirke (Cathedral) finally re-opened this weekend, nearly four years after a major renovation began to address years of neglect. Now church officials are keen on making up for lost time.
The cathedral has been the site of royal weddings, major funerals and all official church events in the capital. Its refurbishment will be celebrated with weeks of special concerts that will keep the church open, even late at night.
It all kicked off at 11am Sunday with a festive service conducted by Oslo Bishop Ole Christian Kvarme and members of the Royal Family in attendance. That was followed by a musical performance in the evening in cooperation with Amnesty International, featuring such local musicians as Tord Gustavsen, Solveig Slettahjell and the Gjermund Larsen Trio. The cathedral’s boys’ choir (Domkirkes guttekor) also performed a specially ordered program by Jon Fosse and composer Hans Matthisen.
The cathedral, which has its own website, will offer other concerts and performances nearly every evening next week and throughout the spring, including an organ concert on Tuesday and Handel’s Messiah on April 26.
At the end of May, there will even be a concert featuring pop music from the 1700s, performed on the organ by church organist Kåre Nordstoga. It’s scheduled for the same night that the Eurovision Song Contest will be held in Oslo, May 29, and is humorously called “In the shadow of Melodi Grand Prix,” the Norwegian version of Eurovision.
The cathedral will also be the site of guided tours, theatrical productions and historical events in addition to church services. From the end of April, the cathedral will remain open on Friday and Saturday nights, as a place to go “for silence and personal reflection,” according to church officials. They want to promote an “open church,” quite literally.
The renovation has cost taxpayers NOK 165 million (about USD 27 million) and was supposed to be completed last fall. It’s still not quite finished, with neither the ceiling paintings nor the crypts getting the attention they needed. But church coffers are now empty.
“It’s too bad, but when you’re remodeling such an old building, it’s difficult to know how much it will cost,” Valgerd Svarstad Haugland, a former government minister and now church administrator, told newspaper Aftenposten. “That’s just the way it is.”