As Levanger celebrates its 1000th anniversary, a vaulted basement in the center of town has been found to contain ashlar blocks of prepared marble, remnants of a medieval church.
Tasked with searching for traces of early settlement in the town of Levanger in Northern Trøndelag, the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research (NIKU) were performing preliminary investigations at the time of discovery. The earliest official accounts of trade and settlement activity in Levanger are from the 15th century.
Built in the 1100s, the remains of the church indicate that it was in the style of gothic architecture. The blocks of marble in question have come from its portals. When the church was torn down after a destructive fire in 1868, it is likely that these materials were then removed and refashioned in the basement, in the same manner as they were used in the church. The church was rebuilt twice, in timber and wood, but both times fell subject to fire, before construction of the brick church that stands in its place today was completed in 1902.
“Preliminary investigations have uncovered four vaulted basements built between 1700 and 1840, all in the center of town,” archeologist Jan Brendalsmo told newswpaper Aftenposten. “This is a curious and rare discovery.”
The oldest structure in Levanger is Alstadhaug church, where on New Year’s Day, residents read from the bible for 24 hours to mark the town’s anniversary. It is the fourth town in Norway to have celebrated this milestone, following Tønsberg, Trondheim and Oslo. Though official historical accounts do not trace settlement activity until the 1500s, the town of Levanger is described as early as 1108 in ancient Viking saga. According to land registers drafted by the archbishop around 1430, several structures existed in the area at this time.