Trondenes church a beautiful summer day

Trondenes Church

A medieval stone church once protected from roving bandits by its clever design

When you approach Trondenes Church north of Harstad, one of the first things you notice is the massive wall around the church. Trondenes played a decisive role in many events during the Viking era, so it is easy to imagine that the wall was part of an essential defensive system against bandits who might sail by. However, modern research informs us that the wall was useless: It actually prevented the defenders on the inside from using their weapons.

The wall was probably built to scare anyone off who might have had bad intentions. When viewed from the sea, the design made the wall appear stronger than it actually was. The Trondenes Church wall wasn't the only one like this. According to Danish archaeologist Jes Wienberg, churches in the Kalmar region in Sweden were also built this same way.

The site of the Trondenes Church has probably been home to several previous wooden churches before the current stone building was completed about 1250 A.D. The church was considered to be the most important Roman Catholic Church north of Nidaros Cathedral. It also served as a spiritual bastion against the Russian Orthodox in the east.

Visitors to the church can join any of the regular guided tours, or book a private tour. 

Hurtigruten travelers can see Trondenes Church while on the A taste of Vesterålen excursion.