Iceberg, Sami tent, boathouse, fish-drying rack? Or the rocky island of Håja? Just what was it that inspired the architect Jan Inge Hovig to choose this special shape for Arctic Cathedral? The artist himself actually contributed to the confusion by making different statements on different occasions. This is probably how myths are born – and there is no authoritative answer.
The Arctic Cathedral stands proud at the end of Tromsø bridge, clearly visible from the centre of the town, set against the background of the 1238 metre Tromsdalstind peak. It is actually called “Tromsdalen Church”, and serves as the parish church for mainland Tromsø. However, on account of its striking shape and daring architecture, the church became known as Ishavskatedralen (The Arctic Cathedral) as soon as it was opened in 1965.
Light in the dark
Strip lights have been positioned between the 11 lamella panels that make up the walls and when darkness falls, the unusual outline of the church is clearly visible from all parts of Tromsø. The special chandeliers of Czech crystal are inspired by icicles and contribute to the distinctively cool look.
The eastern wall behind the altar is decorated with one of the largest, most monumental glass mosaics in Europe. The mosaic is the work of Victor Sparre and depicts the second coming of Christ. The mosaic pieces are 3 cm thick, so on sunny mornings the work becomes almost completely transparent. When the midnight sun shines from the west, however, the colours become deep and intense. During the dark months, the entire mosaic is blacked out although you can still see it from the outside. The glass mosaic dates back to 1972 and was not actually a part of the architect’s vision. The original intention was to use standard glass in the east wall as well.
A new organ – a magnificent instrument – was installed in the church a few years ago. Concerts are now held in the Arctic Cathedral all year long, often involving the congregation’s five choirs. In the summer, however, the church is even more accessible, as the congregation is delighted to welcome guests to midnight sun concerts featuring professional musicians. These concerts start just before midnight, so afterwards the audience can step out and enjoy the midnight sun.
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