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The Ruin Conservation Project

Halsnøy monastery in Kvinnherad, Hordaland. Photo: Arve Kjersheim, Directorate for Cultural Heritage

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A preliminary study during the beginning of year 2000 revealed that Norwegian medieval ruins were in bad condition. The study concluded that most of the about 100 sites needed extensive repair, and there was a general need, on all sites, for maintenance and improved visitor facilities including information.

Medieval Masonry Ruins in Norway

Norway’s most prominent contribution to world architecture is the wooden buildings, the stave churches representing the oldest and best known category. Stone architecture, on the other hand, is sparse but nevertheless an important part of Norwegian building history. Standing buildings and ruins of churches, monasteries and castles are reminders of important events in Norwegian history such as the introduction of Christianity in the 11th century, the Reformation in the 16th century, and of alternating periods of war and peace, wealth and poverty during the Middle Ages.

After being subjected to restless times, the ruins consequently suffered the wear and tear of the inhospitable Norwegian climate, where rain, wind and frost made their mark on the stone surfaces. However, the destructive forces of nature are also generous concerning organic growth. Many of the ruins were completely covered with soil and were as such considered archaeological material.

The Ruin Conservation Project

Masonry conservation at the ruins of Holla church. Photo: Inger-Marie Aicher Olsrud, Directorate for Cultural Heritage

The Ruin Conservation Project was initiated in 2006. The project is one of the Ministry of the Environment’s ten programs for preservation of monuments. Other related programs are the Stave Church Program, the Rock Art Program and the Protection of Archaeological Remains Program. The aim is that by 2020, a selection of medieval ruins will be conserved and left in such a condition that they can be maintained through regular care of the masonry and the surroundings.

Although conservation of the masonry is the most prominent project activity, competence development, dissemination of site information and public communication are important as well. Competence building is given a high priority and courses and networking for masons are prominent activities in the project.

The ruins of Nes church. Photo: Arve Kjersheim, Directorate for Cultural Heritage