Historic Boost for Maintenance of Norwegian Churches

The Norwegian government has taken a significant step to preserve and maintain churches across the country by establishing a Church Preservation Fund, which will provide funding for church maintenance for generations to come.

Over the next 20 to 30 years, the state will allocate approximately 10 billion NOK for the restoration of Norwegian churches. The funds will come from the earnings of the former Church Property Fund and necessary additional allocations from the state budget.

Even after this period, the funds from the Church Property Fund will continue to be set aside for this purpose, creating a generational fund to ensure future financing of church preservation efforts.

The administration of the Church Preservation Fund and program will be located in Trondheim, with the goal of restoring nearly 1000 culturally significant church buildings throughout the country. The program will maintain close communication with local church owners and municipalities across Norway. The Norwegian Church, represented by the Church Council and Preses, along with KA, the organization representing local church owners and the national church expertise, will be closely involved in this endeavor. The administration will also collaborate with cultural heritage experts from other parts of the country, including the building and heritage environment in Røros, to strengthen the knowledge base and secure expertise related to the maintenance of wooden churches. The Norwegian Directorate for Cultural Heritage will also be a vital partner.

The program will be financed by the newly established Church Preservation Fund, which is in addition to the municipalities’ responsibility for the operation and maintenance of the churches.

Ensuring Predictable Funding Church buildings and graveyards are essential components of Norway’s cultural heritage. Securing and restoring these historically significant churches for future generations is a central national task. Currently, many municipalities face considerable backlogs in church maintenance.

“These church buildings are a crucial part of the people’s church and our national cultural heritage, which we must preserve for future generations. With this initiative, we ensure predictable funding for the restoration of these historic churches in an effective and efficient manner,” stated Finance Minister Trygve Slagsvold Vedum.

Ensuring Everlasting Values The Church Preservation Fund is the result of the separation between the state and the church. The state has taken over several assets historically owned by the Norwegian Church, with the value of around 10 billion NOK being used for church restoration. The surplus from the management of these funds will be earmarked for the Church Preservation Fund. The selected model guarantees that the values will be everlasting, with an annual budget of 500 million NOK for church building restoration. In years where the returns from the Church Property Fund fall below 500 million NOK, the remaining amount will be allocated through the state budget until the state’s commitment is fulfilled. This approach ensures that the fund will contribute to the preservation of churches far into the future.

The goal is that the remaining funds in the Church Property Fund will be managed to maintain their value and continue to be significant when the church maintenance obligation is fulfilled. The government envisions these funds becoming the basis for a generational fund, ensuring future financing for the maintenance and safeguarding of Norwegian church buildings.

A Central Part of Local Communities The establishment of the Church Preservation Fund is a historic event that will facilitate the preservation of Norway’s people’s church and historically important national church buildings for future generations.

“Churches are currently central to all local communities, not only as active places of worship but also as important cultural heritage sites. To preserve a living people’s church across the country, we must ensure that the churches are maintained and preserved, allowing them to be easily utilized,” stated Minister for Faith and Life Kjersti Toppe.

Working on a Conservation Strategy Approximately 1000 churches in Norway are considered historically significant and will be included in the program. This extensive effort is expected to take several decades. The government is currently developing a strategy for the preservation work, including prioritization and implementation details. Inputs from the Directorate for Cultural Heritage and the Norwegian Church have been instrumental in this process. The strategy is scheduled to be presented in the fall of 2023.

“I am pleased that the government has decided to locate the administration for preservation work in Trondheim, also known as Norway’s church capital. They will collaborate with cultural heritage experts from other parts of the country, including the Building Conservation Center in Røros. Cooperation with the Directorate for Cultural Heritage and the Norwegian Church is also essential,” commented Minister for Health and Care Services Ingvild Kjerkol.