8 Nonneseter Kloster/Allerhelgenskirken (Nonneseter Monastery/All Saints Church)

Of Nonneseter abbey church only fragments survive, today in a somewhat alientating environment (photo Justin Kroesen)
Of Nonneseter abbey church only fragments survive, today in a somewhat alientating environment (photo Justin Kroesen)

The Benedictine nunnery of Nonneseter was founded during the 1120s, perhaps as a royal donation. It was situated on the north bank of the Lillestrømmen, a canal that connected the lakes of Store Lungegårdsvannet and Lille Lungegårdsvannet.

Its church, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, was built during the second quarter of the twelfth century as a single-nave rectangular church with a length of around 33 m including a large west tower and probably a square eastern ending.

Ground plan of the church around 1300 (after B.E. Bendixen)
Ground plan of the church around 1300; dark grey: original church, light grey: extension. The two surviving parts are marked by a dark line (drawing Per Bækken & Alf Tore Hommedal)

As the abbey grew, it gained considerable income. During the thirteenth century the chancel was extended, so that the church now measured 48 m with a chapel on the south side. At the beginning of the fourteenth century there were 35 nuns in the convent, which lay south of the church.

The tower foot (‘tårnfoten’) viewed from the west side (photo Justin Kroesen

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The Plague of the mid-fourteenth century weakened the abbey, and it was dissolved in the 1450s. The monastery then became part of the Bridgettine abbey of Munkeliv on Nordnes (discussed later on in this tour). From 1507 to 1528 the complex was reused by Canons of St Anthony who specialized in the care of those suffering from skin diseases.  

The church and monastery were partly demolished in 1529 to make room for Lungegården Manor. The church walls disappeared, but the lower storey of the west tower (‘tårnfoten’) survived as a vaulted cellar.

The so-called chapel (‘kapell’) (photo Justin Kroesen)
The so-called chapel (‘kapell’) (photo Justin Kroesen)

The chapel on the south side of the chancel – possibly the vestry of the church – also survived as a vaulted cellar in the new manor building. This part is found on the other side of a modern building which stands in between.

The entrance to Tårnfoten and early Gothic window in the east wall of the chapel/vestry (photos Justin Kroesen)
The entrance to Tårnfoten and early Gothic window in the east wall of the chapel/vestry (photos Justin Kroesen)

‘Tårnfoten’, Bergen’s oldest standing building, now serves as a memorial to victims of World War II. It has a portal in its west wall framed by a fourfold round arch and its heavy vaulting shows close similarities with the Romanesque chancel vault in St Mary’s church.

The east wall of the surviving so-called chapel features a small window in the early Gothic style (Early English).

Allehelgens gate street name (photo Justin Kroesen)

Walking towards the former St John’s monastery, we pass by Bergen city hall (Rådhuset). Behind it stood the medieval church of All Saints which was connected to a hospital. Today, all that reminds of All Saints church are some building fragments and a street name: Allehelgens gate.   

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Walk along Kaigaten in northwestern direction following the tramrails past the crossings with Christies gate, Olav Kyrres gate and Torgallmenningen, then turn right on Chr. Michelsens gate until you reach Tårnplassen (distance c. 800 m)  

Next location…

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