The one in St Swithun's Cathedral Stavanger was essentially as celebratory as its gaudy pulpit, completed in 1658 by Scot Andrew Lawrenceson (aka Anders Lauritzen after he settled in Bergen and married a Norwegian) Smith and running the Bible story from Adam and Eve to Christ in triumph: this was the first home for the great events of the fabulous Stavanger International Chamber Music Festival, my invitation to which kicked off an unforgettable Scandinavian holiday.
No doubt there would have been a party mood out on the island of Mosterøy when the festival celebrates the end of a busy week with a picnic and a concert at Utstein Abbey. Alas, we were only around for the first three days. Since an expedition to the famous Pulpit Rock up the fjord would have taken too long between the festival events, I pleaded with our obliging hostess to take a trip out to Utstein on a brilliant sunny summer morning. Bathing in the inlet was also an attraction (though only for me, as it turned out).
Of course there was no-one there except the girl in the ticket office, so we probably got a better sense of why the monastic community which existed there until the Reformation loved it so. Records for the Abbey actually go back to the 9th century when its site seems to have been some sort of royal farm or fortress for Harald Fairhair. The Augustinian monks settled there, and the Abbey was built, around 1260. Now it's almost concealed by the beeches and other trees which have grown up around it.
Post-Reformation it became the parish church, which accounts for the handsome early 17th century fittings by Gottfried Hentschel and the Lauritz Workshop (online information is very hard to come by; I should have bought the guide book at the time). In the Gothic east end, this includes the altar surmounted by trumpeting angels and the pulpit.
The font, modern as it looks, is Romanesque
as is the nave, separated from the chancel by the bell tower. Here the Stavanger Chamber Festival concerts take place.
Attractive whitewash in the cloister occasionally lets the original details shine through
while the rooms occupied by Christopher Garmann in the 18th century are handsomely if simply furnished and on a sunny morning the windows frame trees and water in a halo of light.
Everyone loves a bit of the supernatural to be appended to a sober monastery. The story goes that Garmann's first wife made him swear on her deathbed that he wouldn't marry again. 20 years later he did; his death followed in a matter of weeks. Copies of the first Garmann couple's portraits - pretty terrible, it has to be said - hang in their dining room.
After that air was needed, so the others sat on the jetty while I swam around - the only holiday bathe in salt rather than fresh water, though it still felt like a lake.
Back in Stavanger, the cathedral was always evocatively lit for the concerts, the purple of which I'm so fond bathing another Gothic chancel behind the players and Victor Sparre's rather attractive 1957 east window glowing until nightfall. First of two images by the excellent official festival photographer Nikolaj Lund.
St Swithun's has an older history than the monastery. The bishopric was established around the time of Stavanger's founding in 1125, its first encumbent none other than Reinald of Winchester, who arrived one of Swithun's arms (!) and other relics - removed after the Reformation, when the building became Lutheran, to Denmark. Norman nave, second of Lund's photos during a festival event.
All the pulpits we saw in Norway and Sweden were handsome in either simple painted or extravagantly carved ways (or both), but Andrew Smith's was the garish jewel.
Braco-born Smith also designed some equally handsome memorials in the north and south aisles.
Externally, the cathedral was stripped back in the 1960s to something of its original look after a heavy handed Victorian restoration. Festival crowds outside the west end.
Some of the 19th century work, chiefly on the east end exterior, isn't bad at all.
Fond memories from the perspective of rainy, strife torn November. Barbican protest report next. I wanted to finish by redeeming the half-promise of the title with Stravinsky's very pretty Four Norwegian Moods, salvaged from his unused film score to Columbia's 1941 The Commandos Strike at Dawn. The only full version available on YouTube, an excellent performance conducted by Chailly, isn't for some reason postable here, so just click on this link and enjoy.