Nidarosdomen has been Trondheim’s greatest landmark ever since it was constructed in the year 1070. Since then the cathedral has grown as each generation added its mark on the awe-inspiring structure and its popularity with tourists and pilgrims from around the world has grown steadily.
There’s so much history for visitors to enjoy at Nidarosdomen as the cathedral has played an incredible role in Norwegian throughout the centuries. But when we heard there was a tour that offered to unveil the secrets of the cathedral, we couldn’t resist checking it out.
The mysterious hidden rooms
The special tour offered is called Skjulte Rom (Hidden Rooms) and it will renew your love for the ancient cathedral. The tour is quite intimate as it consists of a maximum of nine participants and a guide, which really adds to the eerie experience of descending into the hidden depths of the cathedral.
You will among other things get to see the Chapel of St. Mary, the Chapel of St. Michael and the Chapel of St. Olav. You will also be introduced to the stone mason marks, which are small logos carved into the stonework and are one of the only ways to trace who built what in the cathedral. We considered collecting all the signatures we found as a fun little bonus activity during the tour… until we figured out it would be impossible to ‘catch ‘em all’. There are currently just under 4,800 unique stone mason marks to be found in Nidarosdomen, and that’s just those that have been recorded. Who knows how many more might be hiding in the grand structure?
The forgotten facts
In addition to exploring the usually inaccessible parts of the cathedral, the guides will tell you all about its big and small secrets which is a juicy addition to the electrifying exploration of Nidarosdomen.
For instance, did you know that at one point in time, the Norwegian royalty was buried inside the cathedral walls? Or, that the angel on the tallest left spire equipped with a shield and a spear, has the face of Bob Dylan? Or that the tiny gold decoration on top of the cathedral is actually nine meters tall!
Another good one is that the main architect of Nidarosdomen’s mighty west front, not only put his own face on one of the statues but also was deadly afraid of heights. Because of this, his wife (Tulla Fischer, maybe you have heard of her?) was the one who had to climb the ladder and face the frightening heights.
If you look closely at the statue resembling him, you can see a small statue of a woman on a ladder between his legs representing this! Oh, then there’s also a statue with a basket of three heads who have the faces of the bosses that the architect didn’t like — which is pretty awesome.
With great guides, comes great fun
Finally, we just wanted to give a big shout-out to our great guide Sander! When he introduced the characters immortalised in stone on the west front wall, we asked him what his favourite statue was.
His answer was lightning fast: number two from the right-hand side in the bottom row. It’s a statue of a headless man holding a severed head. It’s a depiction of St. Denis, the patron saint of France, who walked three kilometres with his own decapitated head in his hands while deciding where he wanted to be buried.
And speaking of super true things that definitely happened. During our Hidden Rooms tour, at our short stop by the Chapel of St. Olav, Sander told us about something we like to call proper “old-school marketing.” Archbishop Øystein Erlendson sent chapels around the world a curious book called Pasio Olavi.
The book contained great stories about the amazing deeds of St. Olav, like stopping a city fire in Russia and giving a boy his cut-off tongue back. And why did he do this? To hype up the cathedral and attract new visitors. Some even believe the Archbishop himself may have written the book, and if he did, hats off to him for being the medieval Don Draper.
So definitely go check out the gem of Trondheim and discover all the wonderful secrets it's hiding.