The history of the Catholic Church in Norway

The history of the Catholic Church in Norway is as old as the kingdom itself, going back till about 900 A.D., with Christian monarchs from 930. The country was finally converted after the death of the king Saint Olav (+ 1030). The Christianisation was largely the work of Anglo-Saxon missionaries, and the Norwegian Church has been considered the only daughter of the English. Cardinal Nicolas Breakspear established Church province in 1153; the archbishop resided in Nidaros (Trondheim). The prosperous years of the High Middle Ages were followed by decline for Church and nation alike, although Norwegian Catolicism retained much of its vitality.

The people were unprepared for the Lutheran Reformation imposed by the Danish king in 1537. In spite of severe punishment for Catholic practices, the faith survived in parts of the country till about 1700. Christiania (Oslo) had an illegal but tolerated Catholic congregation for a couple of years in the 1790s. The first parish after the Reformation was established in the capital in 1843; a few years later Catholic places of worship were opened in Alta (Finnmark), Tromsø and Bergen.

Most Norwegian Catholics have a foreign background; this partly explains the once popular prejudice that Catholicism is something alien. Religious sisters working in hospitals and schools did much to overcome anticatholicism; Catholic authors, e.g. Sigrid Undset and Hallvard Rieber-Mohn O.P., also contributed to this. Protestants and Catholics were brought closer together in firm opposition to the Quisling regime during the German occupation (1940-45).

The Church has grown slowly and numbers 46.314 registered Catholics (31.12.2003), 70% of whom are born abroad. The country is divided into three Church districts (the diocese of Oslo, and the prelatures of Trondheim and Tromsø) and 32 parishes.

Take a look at our list of all and every Catholic Diocese in the world, country by country, with links to diocesan home pages. Among other things that a Non-Norwegian speaker can benefit from, is our list of Cardinals (constantly updated), officials of the Roman Curia (constantly updated) and some international Church statistics.

av Webmaster publisert 31.03.2006, sist endret 31.03.2006 - 18:18