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Transformation - Faith and Sacred Objects in the Middle Ages

In this exhibition you will be able to view some of the objects that gave people hope in the Middle Ages - the hope of a better life after death. 

Photo of the head of a scultpure from the exhibition. Photo: Fin Serck-Hanssen

Photo of the head of a scultpure from the exhibition.

From the time they were young they learned that life on earth was short and hard, but that new, better times awaited those who led their lives as good Christians. Churches were 
designed to provide a foretaste of paradise, a small part of God’s kingdom brought down to Earth. 

This exhibition contains a number of beautiful artefacts which Norwegians regarded as being sacred during the Middle Ages. Back in the past these objects and sculptures were decorated in bright colours. Today the surfaces are damaged, the colour pigments have faded and many of the statues of saints and altarpieces have been deliberately altered during the intervening period. Pieces have been removed, moved or added. 

We are exploring the transition between the human and the divine and portraying the transformation which these objects have undergone since they ended up inside the doors of a church.

Ceiling of Ål Stave Church

The ceiling painting from Ål Stave Church is one of the main attractions in this exhibition. It is the only major preserved room decoration dating back to the Norwegian Middle Ages on display in this museum.

The wooden roof, which is over 700 years old, is designed like a cartoon, consisting of 23 separate motifs depicting stories from the Bible, from the Book of Genesis to the life and death of Jesus. The style of painting is simple, but adheres to strong traditions relating to how the stories in the Bible should be presented, as determined by theologians in places far removed from Norway.

The power of saints

The saints were God’s holy men and women. They were present in churches in the form of statues and paintings. These statues of the exalted characters mentioned in the Bible stories and legends about saints helped to make them real and more worldly, almost as though by some miracle people could meet them face to face. People approached them with offerings and prayers in order to ask for help and advice.

On display in this exhibition you will also find a number of objects which contain the inherent transformation between the human and the divine, between the material and the spiritual, and between daily life and the power of the works of the saints. From money to offering, from wood to icon.

Transformation is based on two research projects which individually explore the relationship between people and the church during the Middle Ages in Norway, a period lasting for over 500 years, from the death of the Christian King Olav Haraldsson in 1030 to the Reformation in 1537.

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Professor Svein H Gullbekk

Published June 27, 2018 12:49 PM - Last modified Feb. 1, 2019 9:02 AM