Trøndelag, historic heart of Norway
From Nidaros to Røros to nature and industry, the region has something for everyone
Cynthia Elyce Rubin
The Norwegian American
Trøndelag is centrally situated between northern Norway and the south and consists of the two most important agricultural counties in the country. The region is so full of history that some claim that only the cover would be left if you took out everything about Trøndelag from the Norwegian history books.
Norway’s third largest city, founded in 997 CE by King Olaf Tryggvason, is the ideal starting point for a visit to the area. The Nidelva River winds its way through the city center, passing the magnificent Nidaros Cathedral, built from 1070 to 1300, the old charming district of Bakklandet, and long colorful rows of wharves. It was the first capital of Norway.
The Archbishop’s Palace is a castle and palace located south of the Nidaros Cathedral and the seat, residence, and administrative center of the Archbishop of Nidaros. The Regalia of Norway have been kept in the western flank of the castle at various times since 1826 but have been on permanent display only since 2006. The Crown of Norway, made in Stockholm in 1818 by goldsmith Olof Wihlborg, is adorned with a huge green tourmaline, a gift of the Brazilian consul in Stockholm to King Charles III Johan. Its colors and richly elaborate ornaments make the crown a spectacular object.
The Royal Regalia is a collective term for three crowns, two orbs and scepters, the sword of state, the anointment horn, and a marshal’s baton. When Carl III Johan of Norway came to the throne in 1818, it was clear he would be crowned in Trondheim as prescribed by the Norwegian Constitution. None of the medieval Norwegian crowns or other regalia had survived so the king himself ordered and paid for the items. The coronation of King Haakon VII and Queen Maud in 1906 was the last to be held before the coronation requirement was removed from the Constitution.
Vikings and pilgrims
Many important events in Norway’s history took place in Trøndelag. Stiklestad is considered the birthplace of Norway, reflecting the legacy of King Olaf Haraldsen, later St. Olaf, who played a key role in the Christianization of Norway. He was buried in Nidaros, the early name for Trondheim; the Nidaros Cathedral was built over his grave. Stiklestad Church (Stiklestad kyrkje) was erected on top of the stone against which St. Olaf died; the stone supposedly is still inside the altar of the church.
One hundred years later, Nidaros Cathedral was built in Trondheim on the site of his original burial place. Olaf’s body was moved to this church and enshrined in a silver reliquary, taking the form of a miniature church as was common to medieval reliquaries containing the body of a saint. This one was unique, however, in that it had dragon heads similar to those seen on stave churches. In the 16th century, Olaf’s body was removed from this reliquary, which was melted down for coinage by order of the Dano-Norwegian king. His remains were reburied somewhere in Nidaros Cathedral—exactly where remains a mystery.
The Golden Route
Areas such as the Golden Route (Den Gyldne Omveil) in Inderøya, an unusual peninsula located in the Trondheimsfjord, offer opportunities to sample the area’s rich culture. In the 1990s, local businesses with common interests gathered to create the Golden Route. From 10 member companies, they now count more than 22 dedicated stops, including artist workshops, farmer’s eateries, galleries and art museums, sculpture parks, and historical memorials. Inderøy is a certified Sustainable Destination, a seal of approval given to destinations that work to reduce the negative impact of tourism.
Of all local foods, “sodd,” a soup-like meal of mutton, meatballs, potatoes, and carrots, is the most traditional. Inderøy Slakteri (butcher shop), situated in the town of Straumen, produces meat products and dishes based on old-fashioned local recipes, including coarse sausages called Straumpølsa, Morr sausage, Elk salami, and the meatballs used in sodd.
World Heritage town
Røros, located on a gently sloping plateau 2,060 feet above sea level, with more than 100 wooden buildings, is unique. This charming town, built in connection with the copper works that opened in the mid-17th century, is now included on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. The city was founded in 1644 when copper ore was discovered in the area, and over the years, Røros became one of the more important mining towns in Norway. The street pattern and farming properties in the center of town are the same as when they were originally constructed in the 1600s. Today, Røros is a living museum. As you explore its narrow streets, old courtyards, and buildings, you find independent shops and workshops offering ceramics, clothing, and food. Røros Tweed, the single producer from start to finish of throws and blankets in Scandinavia, is a favorite company of mine. When it’s cold in my home, I’m under a Røros blanket.
The coast of Trøndelag, with the islands of Hitra and Frøya to the south and the Fosen peninsula and the coast of Namdal to the north, is famous the world over for its deep-sea fishing. You can also go on an eagle and seal safari or diving for scallops. There is something for everyone in this region.
Cynthia Elyce Rubin, Ph.D., is a visual culture specialist, travel writer, and author of articles and books on decorative arts, folk art, and postcard history, who collects postcards, ephemera, and early photography. See www.cynthiaelycerubin.com.
This article originally appeared in the July 26, 2019, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.