Hunting the Aurora Borealis VII: Trondheim's 1,000 Years

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Historic Trondheim - once the capital of Norway - is located at the mouth of a river and surrounded by mountain peaks. And it has 1,000 years of history.

Photography by the authors

We are arriving at historic and, to Norwegians, nostalgic Trondheim; a city at the mouth of the River Nid said to be surrounded by 87 mountain peaks! This former capital was founded in 997. It is no surprise to find in 1,000 years of history much of Norway’s story and lots of legends.

We hear some of those tales as our bus from the ship takes us through the old part of town, Bakklandet. It is raining and no one is keen to get out of the bus at this moment. The overview is useful for getting our bearings.

The story the guidebooks mention is how King Olaf was killed at the Battle of Sticklestad in 1030. Olaf had recently been baptized a Christian and sought to convert his kingdom, dealing harshly with any remaining pagans. The nobles rose up against him and he was killed in the battle. King Olaf was placed in a shallow grave. Water apparently started to flow from this dry location and a legend grew that the site was sacred. His body was moved farther inland and the Nidaros Cathedral was built over his grave with an interior fashioned from beautiful grey-green soapstone.

In time King Olaf became St. Olaf, the patron saint of the Catholic country. Pilgrims would come to the cathedral from as far away as Greenland and the Faroe Islands, but the 1537 Reformation Act stopped the worship of relics. Olaf was reburied in a secret location.

The Crown Jewels can be seen in a side chapel in the cathedral. The stained glass rose window by Gabriel Kjellan, created in 1930, has 10,000 pieces of glass. The red color stands for God and blue for evil, and as the day progresses the colors change, blue fades and red becomes predominant.

There are two organs in the cathedral, says a priest addressing our group in a rich Irish brogue (just another of those Irish-Norwegian connections. The Vikings founded Dublin). One old Baroque Wagner organ dates from 1739.

More recently, in 1930 the cathedral was fitted with a Steinmeyer for the 900th anniversary of the battle Olaf died in. It had 9,500 pipes — too many, says the guide. So they fitted the extra pipes in all the walkways in the upper level.

The smaller stained glass windows were all re-done in 1920; the ones on the south wall with stories from the New Testament and the ones on the north wall from the Old Testament. The stories are read from the bottom up.

The bus takes us up to higher land for a view of the city then to the Skansen area where the old 1277 hospital lies and still functions. Here also stands the 1705 Hospitalskirken, the oldest surviving church in Scandinavia. It has a red-painted octagonal central part from which the long house escapes to the west and the choir to the east. Cars hurry past in the rain uncaring they are dashing past their city’s history.

Off-shore the island Munkholmen was Trondheim’s execution place. It became a Bendectine monastery, but by 1658 had turned into a prison fort.

Tomorrow our cruise ends in Bergen.

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The Man Who Cried Orange: Stories from a Doctor's Life.

The Andersons, who live in San Diego, are the resident travel & cruise columnists for Physician's Money Digest. Nancy is a former nursing educator, Eric a retired MD. The one-time president of the NH Academy of Family Practice, Eric is the only physician in the Society of American Travel Writers. He has also written five books, the last called