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THE ARCTIC CATHEDRAL (Tromsdalen Church)

It all started with a church society and congregation.......it was to take 40 years to realise the project, from conception to finished building.

7 November 1955 was an important milestone. The leaders of the local church society committee decided that the area known as "Sofiero" should be the new site for the church. At the same time the planning committee decided to include a burial chapel and a congregation hall.

The first draft of the planned building, by architect Jan Inge Hovig, was released in the summer of 1957,and a revised version on 8 February 1960. The final resolution came from the state department on 9 November 1962. The actual building project was started on 1 April 1964.

19 December 1965 The church was consecrated by Bishop Monrad Norderva.

Total costs including inventory were NOK 4,169,815. Donations and contributions represent a total of NOK 537,977. The rest of the project was funded by official funds.


The organ was delivered by Vestlandske Orgelverksted, Hareid, and built as opus nr. 12. The organ has 22 voices and 124 keys (electropneumatic windchest and register). The organ is situated by the west gallery. Organist Helmer Telnes, from Troms¿ served as consultant and designer. The organ project was supervised by architect Hovig.


The church bells were cast at O. Olsen"s bellmakers in Nauen, during the summer of 1965. The largest weighs 1050 kg, and has a diameter of 118cm. It"s tone is f.1. The bell is inscribed (in Norwegian) "Hearken unto me every one" (Mark 7:14) Engraved - the bible.

The smallest bell weighs 570 kg, with a diameter of 99cm. Tone is 1. Inscription: "Listen, my people" (Psalms 81:9)Ê Engraved - a dove. The bells are located on the frontal part of the church, over the main entrance. The bell ringing is automated.


The chandeliers are made in Oslo of Czechoslovakian crystal. The design is by the architect Hovig. The chandeliers comprise of many prisms, that represent hanging ice formations. In every chandelier there are 126 lights. A special technique used means that the light given from each chandelier gives a very special colour effect, from the reflection of each crystal.



The altar, christening font and pulpit are made from light oak, by Målselv-Møbler and Thorheim Snekkerverksted. The communion rail and pews are covered in beige leather. The bridal chair and most of the churches other decorations are made by The Norwegian Handicraft Association.


The stained glass window was unveiled 25 June 1972. The window is 23 metres high and covers an area of 140 square metres. The shape is triangular and covers the entire east wall. 11 tons of glass were used to finish the window. Each glass element comprises of 86 rectangular sections that form a complete whole. The man behind this work of art is Viktor Sparre. He envisaged Tromsdalen church as a "building without a soul" unless the proclamation of Christ was clearly brought through in the construction of the church itself. He saw a chance to fulfil this purpose in the design and construction of the stained-glass window.


Special techniques had to be employed by Sparre, due to the sheer size and weight of the construction. The glass is 2 cm thick, single coloured and with a natural lustre. It could not be bound together with lead, like other stained-glass windows. After the glass elements were cut to size, they were supported by steel stays and cast in concrete. Using this technique, Sparre was able to make larger pieces that would allow light to push through, creating a sea of light and colour on the east wall.

Sparre and his colleagues worked for three years on the project. A small-scale prototype was made, to be used as a reference model. He then drew the decoration in full scale on tracing paper, in order to calculate the size and position of the elements. The next stage was a complicated and arduous jigsaw puzzle - each glass piece was mounted, fitted to it"s counterpart, reinforced with steel and cast in concrete. The last stage was to mount each rectangle in a wooden frame and fit those frames together.


Sparre had the main motif planned already before the start: The resurrection of Christ in His glory. In addition to this there are larger and smaller underelements.

Uppermost in the triangle is God"s hand. This is an expression of God"s power and influence in history. The message here is that God has almost finished his work. The light breaks through and wins the battle over darkness. The Lord returneth. The figure of Christ is powerful, the victor in spite of His suffering. The Saviour´s meeting with His people is symbolised by Adam and Eve who receive him in jubilation and prayer.

Under these figures are symbols that represent the negative aspect of man"s influence on God"s creation. The barbed wire and skulls are symbols of war and self-inflicted suffering. Elsewhere Sparre has used figures of hammers, nails and dice, to symbolise the way Christ was treated on his first coming. Also represented are the Bible, and a clock face. This is as a reminder that there is still time to receive God and be saved - to meet with God before the clock strikes twelve.

In this way this great work of art relates and expands on the central theme: The return of Christ.