Sunday, July 24, 2011


I feel compelled to detour out of Moscow for a post.  We have been horrified by the news coming out of Oslo, Norway, this weekend, one of the most beautiful and peaceful cities in the world.  This is, after all, the city where the Nobel Price Prize is awarded. (The rest of the Nobel Prizes are awarded in Stockholm, Sweden.) Both Bob and I have been going back through our pictures of Oslo, looking for the places that we are seeing on the news.  One of the gifts of travel is that it gives a sense of place to world events.  We are certainly no experts on Oslo, where we spent just three days, but we know a lot more than we used to!

The old city wall
We stayed in the older, more historic part of town, but we weren't far from the downtown business district where the car bomb exploded.  More than most major world cities, we found Oslo to be a harmonious blend of very old and very new.
PriceWaterhouseCoopers--I took this picture for Nate and Brian

Oslo loves its windows.

I loved this building shaped like the prow of a ship.

Oslo Opera House, built as a kind of extension of the harbor, as if the sea were coming right up the ramp and into the hall to hear the music.  Keeping those front windows clean must be a 24/7 job.
The brand new sculpture in front of the Opera House looks like an iceberg and can rotate with the winds and waves.

This looks a lot like the area where the bomb went off.

Beautiful flowers everywhere:

We have been moved by the images and stories of Norwegians in their grief.  Of particular interest have been the stories about the crowds gathering in the central cathedral in Oslo, which was just a few blocks from our hotel. Norwegians have been flocking there in record numbers this weekend.  (According to Wikipedia, only 5% of Norwegians attend church, compared to 45% of Americans, so church is not part of their usual routine.)  We visited the cathedral several times, intrigued by its blend of secular and sacred. 

 The date of the cathedral's completion is posted on the exterior wall:

But modern touches reflect the merging of past and present we found so appealing in Oslo.  The bronze doors, for example, were added in 1938.  Here are a few panels:

Inside, the whitewashed walls and muted ceiling murals (completed during a restoration project in the mid-20th century) contrast sharply with the Russian Orthodox cathedrals I've been writing about:

However, the stained glass windows added in 1910-1916 by Norwegian artist Emanuel Vigeland (more about him in a later post), add a startling burst of color:

The original altar piece is a cross between mural and sculpture:
 I love these faces and poses:
The pulpit also appears to be part of the original church:

There are multiple organs.  This one, positioned in the traditional spot at the rear of the cathedral high above the main doors, was gorgeous.

This more modest and newer instrument positioned closer to the choir was also beautiful:
It had a keyboard that even I might be able to manage:
We loved what we assume is a baptismal font . . .
. . . with this snake inlaid in the floor in front of it. A symbol of original sin, perhaps?
The interior doors were beautiful but devoid of any religious symbols that we were aware of and could have been anywhere--a palace, a government office, a fancy department store:

By far my favorite item in the church was this sculpture in silver of The Last Supper (1930) by Italian artist Arrigo Minerbi:

Aren't those wonderful faces?  By the way, note how someone has tucked a piece of paper between Christ's fingers in that final picture and the apostle's fingers in the previous picture. Requests for  special blessings, perhaps?

As Norway mourns its lost children, I am glad they are coming together in this beautiful cathedral that will remind them who they are.  I hope they find can find some comfort there.
Photo from LA Times, Saturday, July 23, 2011


  1. This has been such a heartbreaking story. Thank you for posting some images and history. So tragic how quickly things can change.

  2. How do the parishioners see the sacrament in a T shaped church?

  3. Beautiful pictures to accompany such a sad story, Judy -- thank you for sharing them.

  4. Thanks for this post. I'm glad to see photos of an Oslo not under attack from some crazy person. The sense of calm pervades your pictures--so sorry their peacefulness was interrupted.