Lyse Kloster (25 km from Bergen)

The ruined abbey church viewed from the west (photo Justin Kroesen)
The ruined abbey church viewed from the west (photo Justin Kroesen)

Lyse kloster is a now-ruined Cistercian monastery founded in 1146 by monks from Fountains Abbey in Yorkshire, England. It was the first monastery of this monastic order in Norway. The complex was built during the second half of the twelfth century following the model of other Cistercian monasteries in England and France.

Ground plan of the monastery (photo Justin Kroesen)
Ground plan of the monastery (photo Justin Kroesen)

It comprised a single-nave church with a chapel on both sides of the chancel and a square cloister on the south side with adjacent spaces such as the chapter house, kitchen and refectory. The monks and lay brothers (conversi) were active in farming in the surrounding region, and the abbey acquired considerable wealth.

Hypothetical reconstruction of Lyse Monastery (Lyse kloster) (after H.-E. Lidén, © Arkikon)
Hypothetical reconstruction of Lyse Monastery (Lyse kloster) (after H.-E. Lidén, © Arkikon)

During the Reformation in 1536-1537 the abbey and its possessions were confiscated by the Danish-Norwegian Crown. Stones from the buildings were removed and used in Bergen, Denmark and Germany. Several pieces of building sculpture from Lyse are now in the University Museum of Bergen.

The monastery complex was excavated during the nineteenth century, in the 1920s and 1970s. Parts of the walls were reconstructed in the 1930s using slate tiles making different building parts building parts recognizable. Inside the church, the remains of a transversal wall between the monks’ and the lay brothers’ choir are clearly visible, as well as the chancel platform and the foundations of the main altar.

The chancel platform with the remains of the main altar (photo Justin Kroesen)
The chancel platform with the remains of the main altar (photo Justin Kroesen)

In the south wall of the chancel are three niches of which the wide middle one served as sedilia (priest’s seat). To the north of the altar and in the northern side chapel are several grave cellars.

 

A view of the arcade in the cloister (photo Justin Kroesen)
Reconstructed arcade in the cloister (photo Justin Kroesen)

In the cloister a section of the remarkably ornate arcade has been reconstructed, which shows strong similiarities to contemporary English architecture. Behind the arches several layers of enormous ashlars form the lower part of the church’s south wall. The pillar base at the entrance to the chapter house suggests a monumental façade.

250 m southwest of the ruins stands a white painted wooden chapel erected in 1662-1663 by the then owner of Lyse estate, Nils Hanssen Smidt. Its interior has a well-preserved interior including a Baroque altarpiece from c. 1670.   

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