Situated in the deeply indented Trondheim fjord in western Norway, Trondheim is the capital of the Sør Trøndelag fylke, or region, and is the country’s third largest city. Among hills covered in pine forests, it is traversed by the Nid River. It is Norway’s oldest city.
Following the death of King Haakon in 995, King Olaf Tryggvesson returned from exile in England. Two years later he founded Kaupangr on the mouth of the River Nid as his capital. A Christian convert, he built a church as well as a palace, and the town soon developed into a trading centre. In 1000 Olaf was killed at the battle of Svolder. In the same year, the Viking Leif Eriksson set sail from the village on a voyage across the Atlantic, via Greenland, landing at what is now Newfoundland. 16 years later Kaupangr was renamed Nidaros, meaning Nid River estuary. In 1030 King Olaf Haraldsson, another Christain king, was killed at the battle of Stiklestad. Olaf’s body was brought back to Nidaros. The following year he was canonized and the town developed into a one of the major pilgrim centres of Medieval Europe. With expansion and the construction of new churches, Nidaros became Norway’s capital and an important religious, cultural and educational centre. At the end of the eleventh century Christ Church was built by King Olaf Kyrre reputedly on Saint Olaf’s burial site. With the establishment of a bishopric shortly after, Christ Church became a cathedral. In the mid-twelfth century Nidaros became an archbishopric which included Norway, Greenland, Iceland, the Hebrides, Shetland, the Orkneys and the Isle of Man.
The town’s importance as a trading port waned when the Hanseatic League made Bergen its principal port, although it retained its religious importance. In 1380 it lost its capital status. In the sixteenth century Nidaros was renamed Trondhjem. The town’s economy and political influence declined after the Reformation. In the eighteenth century, a small merchant aristocracy emerged.
Over the centuries, Trondheim suffered many fires, made worse by tightly packed wooden houses. After a particularly destructive fire in 1681 the town was rebuilt with wider streets. Two new forts were built. The cathedral did not escape from the city’s fires and by the nineteenth century it was seriously dilapidated. A move to revive the country’s heritage at this time led to the restoration of the cathedral, beginning in 1869.
With the arrival of rail in the mid-nineteenth century, Trondheim developed rapidly. The natural harbour was expanded and the city became an important centre of industry and education. In 1930 the city’s name reverted to Nidaros, but strong public opinion forced the name to be changed back barely a year later, albeit with a slightly different spelling. It was occupied by Nazi forces in 1940 and as a strategically important naval base was bombed by the Allies. In the post-war period it underwent major reconstruction.
Trondheim is an important seaport and fishing centre. Industries include food processing, shipbuilding and metallurgy. The city exports fish, wood pulp, timber and metals. Founded in 1968, the Norwegian University of Science and Technology is the country’s second largest university. Trondheim is linked internationally by Trondheim Airport Værnes, nationally by rail and to the remote northern regions by ferry.
Places of Interest
Since 1814 the Gothic cathedral has been the site of the coronation of Norwegian monarchs. Originally a wooden chapel built in 1031 over Olaf’s burial site, it became Christ Church when built in stone from 1070–90. Between the twelfth and fourteenth centuries the present cathedral was built. It has richly ornamented stone sculptures, although many of these are recent additions. The archbishop’s castle, the Erkebispegården is adjacent to the cathedral. Museums include the Trøndela Folk Museum of local cultural history, the Museum of Natural History and Archaeology and the Art Gallery which displays Norwegian art from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Specializing in music history, the Ringve museum has a collection of instruments from around the world.