The Lofoten Cathedral

Photo: Jan Ivar Rødli

On the way to Lofoten by boat, the tower of the Lofoten Cathedral is the first sign of humans and civilization you see. For 900 years, fishermen have steeled themselves for the Lofoten fishery with church visits in Kabelvåg.

A Navigational Landmark

In the grand landscape of Lofoten, humans appear small. However, Vågan Church, the Lofoten Cathedral, dating from 1898, takes up the competition with the mountain peaks with its lofty figure and is visible far out at sea. With 1200 seats, Vågan Church is the largest church in Northern Norway and one of the largest wooden churches in the country. The church stands in Kabelvåg (Kjerkvågen), the old capital of Lofoten.

Nice ship in the Lofoten Cathedral
Nice ship in the Lofoten Cathedral (Kjell Ove Storvik)

Cathedral for the Fishermen

The reason for the church’s large size is the Lofoten fishery. A crown prince resolution from 1895 determined that the parish church should accommodate one-third of the parish’s inhabitants at any given time. During the winter fishery, there were 6,000 people in Vågan parish, so the church should have been larger, but an exemption was granted due to seasonal variations. During a priest ordination in 1929, there were 2,000 people inside the church, 800 of them standing, and Bishop Berggrav said from the pulpit that it felt like being inside a cathedral. Hence the nickname “The Lofoten Cathedral,” even though Vågan Church is actually a regular parish church.

Lofoten Cathedral and service
Lofoten Cathedral and service (Kjell Ove Storvik)

Neo-Gothic in Wood

The church is built in the Neo-Gothic style, and like many in Northern Norway, it is made of wood. The pointed arches are evident in the windows, in the arches between the high, slender wooden columns inside, in the ornamentation on the pulpit and the altar rail, and on the stately, pointed tower. The Swiss style is seen in the carved details in the ridges and in the ornamentation inside. The architect Carl Julius Bergstrøm utilized prefabricated elements from Trondheim that were assembled on site. The altar piece from 1860 stood in the “old church,” which was demolished in 1900.

The Lofoten Cathedral and unique architecture
The Lofoten Cathedral and unique architecture (Kjell Ove Storvik)

900 Years as a Church Site

King Øystein had the first church built in Vågan in the early 12th century, and at the same time, he had fishermen’s cabins constructed. Thus, the close relationship between the church and the annual Lofoten fishing was established. There have been at least five, perhaps six, different churches in Kabelvåg; the penultimate predecessor now stands on Værøy. Vågan Church has preserved equipment from the earlier churches, such as King Frederick II’s bible from 1589, chandeliers and candlesticks from the 17th century, and a baptismal font from the 18th century. Inside the church, there is also a unique collection of portraits.

Lofoten Cathedral and historical portrait
Lofoten Cathedral and historical portrait (Kjell Ove Storvik)

Visiting the Lofoten Cathedral

Vågan Church is a roadside church, and thus it remains open during the summer for all who wish to enter. The modest entrance fee contributes to the maintenance of the large church. An even more impressive experience is a visit during one of the many concerts held in the church, both during chamber music festivals and at other times.

Lofoten Cathedral and Concert
Lofoten Cathedral and Concert (Kjell Ove Storvik)
From inside the Lofoten Cathedral
From inside the Lofoten Cathedral (Kjell Ove Storvik)

Opening Hours and Entrance Fee

This year (2023), the Vågan Church/Lofoten Cathedral will once again welcome visitors during the summer, with the season extending a bit into the fall.

Opening hours for summer 2023, in various periods:

Period: 1 June – 22 June:

  • 16:00 – 20:00 on weekdays
  • 10:00 – 20:00 on Saturdays
  • 12:00 – 20:00 on Sundays

23 June – 16 August:

  • 09:00 – 20:00 on weekdays including Saturdays
  • 12:00 – 20:00 on Sundays

17 August – 17 September:

  • 16:00 – 20:00 on weekdays
  • 10:00 – 20:00 on Saturdays
  • 12:00 – 20:00 on Sundays


40 NOK per person. Children under 12 years old free of charge.

Church Services

Here is an overview of upcoming church services: Calendar for church services. Find out more about the Lofoten Cathedral here.

Location: Lofoten Cathedral

Text from Northern Norway Tourism Board

Other interesting things in Kabelvåg