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The establishment

In the 11th century the church of Norway belonged to the archbishopric of Hamburg/Bremen. However, most of the missionary priests who came to Norway were from England and the ties to Hamburg/Bremen were therefore weak.

At the beginning of the 12th century the Nordic countries were detached from Hamburg/Bremen because of the establishment of a new archbishopric in Lund in Sweden. In 1153 a new archbishopric for Norway was founded by a delegation from Rome under the leadership of the English cardinal Nicolaus Breakspear. When Breakspear came back to Rome later that year, he was elected Pope and chose the name Hadrian IV.

Nicolaus Breakspear

The Archbishopric

The archbishopric included four Norwegian and two Icelandic bishoprics, in addition to the bishoprics of Greenland, The Faroe Islands, Shetland/Orkneys and the Hebrides/Isle of Man. The archbishop was the bishop of one of the bishoprics which included Norway north of the Dovre mountains.

From his bishopric the archbishop earned a great income in form of taxes and rent. He also aquired income from the stockfish trade north of Bergen. All these sources of income, and donations from the pilgrims, constituted the economic foundation of the construction of Nidaros Cathedral.

The Archbishop's palace

The archbishop build his palace south of the cathedral. In the 12th century a grand hall in stone was built, where the archbishop hosted meetings and receptions. There were also several wooden buildings.

In the 13th century the palace was extended with new residential buildings in stone. During the Middle Ages there was also an armoury and a mint on the palace grounds.  The fortification of the palace gradually increased, with a curtain wall and guarded gates. Today one can visit three exhibitions in the Archbishop's Palace.

The Cathedral Chapter

The Cathedral Chapter consisted of several canon priests. They had different areas of responsibility, like the daily management of the cathedral school, finances and leading the construction work on the cathedral. When an archbishop died, the canon priests chose a new one.

In addition to their responsibilities at the cathedral, the canon priests also had offices in the bishopric.  These offices were attended to by substitutes or vicar priests, hence the term “vicar” in English for parish priests. In the late middle ages the archbishop ruled the country on behalf of the king who at this time resided in Denmark. Thus, the Cathedral Chapter functioned as the governing college of the country.