The Null Device

The view from Bergen

bergen-fløien-110806
I spent last weekend in Bergen, Norway's second city. Bergen is a pleasant small city, located on the fjordland coast and surrounded by mountains. It seemed in some ways like a hybrid of San Francisco and Reykjavík, having the hilly roads of the former (in some places, the road disappears into a tunnel and the footpaths continue up the slope), and the copacetically Nordic feel of the latter. Bergen is also a university town, and thus has a vibrant local scene, with many small bars and a lot of live music. Being in Norway, though, drinking in the bars is not cheap.

My visit to Norway (which I had booked some weeks in advance), of course, was one week after the massacre in Oslo. As such, one of the sculptures in the centre of town, a flat granite slab, had become a memorial, and was covered with flowers and notes. Other than that, the mood didn't seem muted, shocked or apprehensive. A poster elsewhere advertised an event happening on the island of Utøya that weekend; I was told that this has not been cancelled, the island not been turned into a Norwegian Ground Zero, a cursed ground belonging forever to infamy. The Norwegian people, it seems, are not ones to let evil triumph, or even to let evil change their lives.

p1200452.jpgA short distance from the centre of Bergen is the Fantoft Stave Church, a wooden church built in the 13th century, and incorporating much traditional Viking imagery into its decor. (The overall effect is eerie; from some angles, it looks almost like a Japanese shrine, only austerely monochromatic.) Or rather an exact replica of the original church, which became famous for having been burned down by a Satanist connected with Norway's infamous Black Metal scene in 1992. The church was rebuilt, pretty much exactly as it was, with no acknowledgement of its misfortune save for a security camera and chain-link fence (and, of course, black-metal graffiti faintly scratched into an observation platform outside the fence).

It's interesting to think about how much of the interest in the church comes from its recent history. While the church does attract interest from those interested in mediæval ecclesiastical architecture or Norwegian traditions (it's not used for regular church services, though sometimes weddings are held there), it has also become a symbol of Black Metal taken to spectacular extremes. (A while ago, an artisan in Bergen made candles shaped like stave churches, in a limited edition of 666.) Meanwhile, many visitors to Bergen take the tram to Fantoft to see the church; it's debatable how many of those would have gone had it not been immortalised by its earlier destruction and resurrection (somewhat of a recurring motif, it could be argued). So, on one hand, the Satanist who torched it scored somewhat of an own goal in his quest to obliterate Norway's Christian heritage; on the other hand, a large part of the church's new-found fame is tied in with the fiery excesses of rock'n'roll gone malignant.

For what it's worth, I have posted photos from Bergen here.

There are 3 comments on "The view from Bergen":

Posted by: Bjrn Brandt Sun Aug 14 05:22:51 2011

Not only did Vikernes burn it, he put the photo of the ruins at the cover of his band's EP 'Aske' ('Ash'): http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-fcjnosiUn1o/Tejw86PC5DI/AAAAAAAABHw/gt5_zdPmEvg/s1600/Burzum+-+Aske.jpg

Posted by: acb http://dev.null.org/acb/ Sun Aug 14 23:13:36 2011

Is it known that Vikernes torched the Fantoft stave church, rather than a follower or associate having done so?

Posted by: gusset http://gusset.tumblr.com/ Mon Aug 15 09:08:30 2011

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Varg_Vikernes "He was also charged with the arson of Fantoft stave church, although the jurors voted not guilty. The judges called this an error but did not overthrow the whole case."

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