151413121110090807060504030201AltarThe Nidaros Bishop’s robeThe Nidaros Bishop’s robeEllingsøy ChurchEllingsøy kirkeEllingsøy kirkeInnset Church, RennebuInnset kirkeKonnerud Church, DrammenKonnerud Church, DrammenThe Chapel of St. John the Baptist, Nidaros CathedralThe Chapel of St. John the Baptist, Nidaros CathedralJohanneskapellet i NidarosdomenPaintings for a CathedralI begynnelsenI begynnelsen - I domenSyndefalletSyndefallet - I domenNoas arkBabels tårnGullkalven (triptyk)Gullkalven (triptyk) - I domenBebudelsenBebudelsen - I domenFlukten til Egypt og Jesu fødselFlukten til Egypt og Jesu fødsel - I domenAgnus DeiNattverden (triptyk)KorsfestelsenThe ResurrectionOppstandelsen - I domenVest Agder Electric Power Company, KristiansandFaculty of Medicine NTNU, TrondheimSvartlamoenSvartlamoenRikshospitalet, OsloRikshospitalet, OsloRikshospitalet, OsloRikshospitalet, OsloMemorial for Bjarne NessIla School, TrondheimIla School, TrondheimIla School, TrondheimIla School, TrondheimInternal Revenue Office, South TrøndelagInternal Revenue Office, South TrøndelagInternal Revenue Office, South TrøndelagInternal Revenue Office, South Trøndelag
A woven painting – the Nidaros Bishop’s robe

In 1996, a competition was held for the commission of a new bishop’s robe for Nidaros Cathedral (Medieval name for Trondheim). Gullvåg once again prevailed. It is possible to conceive of the robe as an ambulating liturgical device. The bishop wears it while performing duties throughout the diocese and beyond, both nationally and internationally. As such, it can be experienced in many diverse contexts.

Gullvåg painted his conception of the robe on large wooden panels. These pictures were turned into pictorial weavings by the textile artist Ragnhild Enge. She has in fact managed to melt Gullvåg’s characteristic compositions of roughly suggested brushstrokes into her weavings. The distinctive colour-moods in the paintings have now found their counterpart in thin threads of wool, linen and silk. The robe itself was designed and sewn by Randi Bakken. The woven motifs successfully contrast with the damask wool’s wine-red tone. A fragile, faint crown-of-thorns pattern makes up the fabric’s report, and was created on the basis of Gullvåg’s charcoal drawings.

St. Olav

The crown of thorns, inasmuch as it frames the motif of Saint Olav, also has a central position in the large coat of arms on the back of the robe. This calls attention to the parallels between the death of Jesus and that of the holy king. In the Middle Ages, people were intent upon forging connections between the lives of saints and Jesus’ life. For this reason, Gullvåg’s version of St. Olav takes recourse in a motif of a knight from the St. Olav Altar Frontal. A copy of this beautiful frontal is found in the eastern octagonal chapel in Nidaros Cathedral (the original, dated from ca. 1330, was moved in 2000 to the Archbishop’s Palace Museum). In the medieval motif, King Olav is acclaimed as he rides towards Stiklestad, a scene that relates to Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem.

Incorporating St. Olav into the Bishop’s robe indicates the central role Nidaros played in his martyrdom and sainthood. Yet Olav is also the patron saint of Norway. This connection between the local and the national context is underscored by the Olav-symbol in the upper part of the coat of arms, since, with the two axes, it becomes the symbol for the Church of Norway. At the bottom of the robe is the globe, creating an analogy between Nidaros, Norway and the universal Christian worldview.

Purple and Gold

The close relation between Jesus and the sainted king is accentuated yet once again in the knight-motif in the first scene on the borders ornamenting the cape’s front; here Jesus rides into Jerusalem. We are led through the events of Holy Week: Foot Washing, the Last Supper, Pilate washing his hands, the Way of the Cross, the Crucifixion, the Deposition and the Banner of Triumph. In the last scene, we notice that the traditional red and white in Jesus’ banner is exchanged with purple and gold, the signature colours of Olav.

The pictorial sequences in these boarders are encompassed above and below by crowns of thorns and eggs, symbolizing how Jesus transforms suffering and death into resurrection and hope.