ARCHAEOLOGICAL EXCAVATIONS OF THE MEDIEVAL ROYAL MANOR
In 2017, the Avaldsnes Royal Manor project carried out excavations of what proved to be the main building in the medieval royal estate at Avaldsnes. The building are situated on the plateau just south of St Olaf’s Church.
The ruins are currently covered by a temporary building that will protect the walls until the conservation is finished. This will take several years.
THE AVALDSNES ROYAL MANOR PROJECT
The Royal Manor project is an archaeological research project that is based on the old royal residence Avaldsnes by the strait Karmsundet. The project is led by prof. Dagfinn Skre, Museum of Cultural History in Oslo.
The Royal Manor project should initially investigate the story of the royal seat Avaldsnes and the rise of the Norwegian kingdom from approx. 200 to 1100 AD. During the excavations in 2012, the archaeologists made the unexpected discovery of walls from a royal hall built in stone. The Royal Manor project therefore expanded its thematic and chronological framework to include the institutionalized kingdom of the High Middle Ages.
The ruins were found two weeks before the Royal Manor project was to finish its investigations. For reasons of safety, the ruins were covered over again until a proper scientific survey could be conducted.
In December 2016, the Norwegian government granted NOK 5.4 million for investigations of the medieval ruins. Thus, the project was fully funded and the excavations of the royal estate could start on 6 June 2017.
2017. WHAT THE EXCAVATIONS REVEALED
It caused a sensation when the Avaldsnes Royal Manor project in 2017 revealed the ruins of this fortified royal manor. Nobody had thought that there would be so much well-preserved masonry, or that the main building was so huge! The discovery of this royal manor shows that the medieval kings invested heavily in Avaldsnes.
The building had three floors built in stone, included the cellar. The cellar was used as a storage room, probably to store goods received from both taxation and trade.
On the second floor, there were kitchens, workshops and working rooms. On the third floor was the representative hall and other rooms used by the king when he was at Avaldsnes.
The building ends in a high gate tower. This was the main entrance to the royal manor. From the tower a covered passageway, perhaps in two floors, leads up to the chancel. The façade from the south to the church is 70 m. The main building, including the tower, is about 51 meters.
WHO BUILT THE MEDIEVAL ROYAL MANOR?
The building was constructed sometime between 1240-1319, probably either by Håkon Håkonsson, who built the Church of St Olaf, or by Håkon V Magnusson, who appointed St Olaf’s church as a collegiate church. So far, it seems that the gate tower was built by Håkon Håkonsson at the same time as the church, and that Håkon V Magnusson continued with the main building which was completed sometime around 1300.
Most medieval ruins in Norway are sacral buildings such as churches and monasteries. Only three other medieval royal manors are known in Norway. They are located in Oslo, Bergen and Tønsberg.
CONSERVATION OF THE RUINS
The ruins are currently covered by a temporary building that will protect the walls until the conservation is finished. The conservation will be done in close cooperation with NIKU. (The Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research) and it will take several years before it is finished. The conservation will enable the ruin to withstand wind and wear and tear.
The ruins, together with St Olaf’s Church, will be the significant elements in a medieval park that will be developed in the central church area.
The landscape around the ruin will be arranged so that the audience can walk around it. We will also provide information on how the royal estate may have looked and how the buildings were used.
THE AVALDSNES ROYAL MANOR PROJECT HAS THREE PHASES
• Preparatory project: Completed 2007-2009.
• Excavation phase: Excavations conducted summer seasons of 2011, 2012 and 2017.
• Analysis and publication phase: 2013 – 2019: During this phase, a team of prominent researchers are working on writing Avaldsnes’ history from the birth of Christ to the High Middle Ages. The research team will also place Avaldsnes in a context that makes the site’s more than a thousand year long history as a royal residence understandable and meaningful; locally, nationally and internationally.
2017. THE NATIONAL GOVERNMENT GRANTS NOK 10 MILL TO THE AVALDSNES ROYAL MANOR PROJECT
In May 2017, the National Government granted NOK 10 million for the analysis and publication phase of the Avaldsnes Royal Manor project. This makes it possible to write Avaldsnes’s history into a broader European context. Ie a story about how the Germanic tribes of northern Europe were transformed into kingdoms and eventually states.