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A bispedømme (Stift) is the highest church administrative jurisdiction (both administrative and geographically). It consists of a bishop administrating the local Lutheran churches under his jurisdiction. The term bishop is also used in the Catholic Church and in the Norwegian Church prior to the reformation in 1536. Prior to 1919 the bispedømme was known as a stift in Norway, which is also the case in Denmark and Sweden. The Orthodox Church has a similar system called eparki. All dioceses in the Norwegian Church by the law of 1933 must include a bishopric council.
After the Reformation the word Stift became the official term for a Bispedømme (Diocese), it is the highest church jurisdiction in Norway. In 1537 there were five Dioceses in Norway.
Nidaros Diocese included the area north from Dovre parish in Oppland County as well as Vestlandet (the western part of the country that borders to the Norwegian sea) clear down to what today is Sunnmøre, as well as Herjedalen and Jämtland now in Sweden. These latter two areas were lost in the 1643-1645 Hannibal feud. Jämtland was at that time under the jurisdiction of the archbishop in Uppsala, Sweden; but civil jurisdiction prior to the Hannibal feud was in Norway.
Hamar Diocese included indre Østlandet (the innermost part of Østlandet) the eastern part of the country, in addition to the upper part of Telemark county and Idre-Særna (now in Sweden).
Oslo Diocese included the area from the Lake Mjøsa in the north down to the Göta river in the southeast, as well as to Agder in the southwest. It also included Gjerpen prosti or the lower Telemark area.
Stavanger Diocese included Rogaland county and Agder (now Aust-Agder and vest-Agder counties), as well as Valdres and Hallingdal.
Bergen Diocese included the rest of Vestlandet (from Sunnmøre to Hordaland).
Bergen Diocese also included Holar and Skåholt in Iceland, the Faroe Islands, Orkney Island (including Shetland which also had the status of being its own arch prosti under Jämtland which was under Uppsala, Sweden in the middle ages). It also included Suderøyene (the Hebrides) and the Isle of Man. The Norwegian Diocese of Sodor was formed in 1154, covering the Hebrides and the other island along the west coast of Scotland. The name in the original Norse was Suðreyjar (south isles) in contrast to the (northern isles) of Orkney and Shetland. The Isle of Man was included in with these southern isles. The diocese was at first under the archdiocese of Trondheim. The islands in Great Britain fell away from the Norwegian church provinces around 1474 when they became part of the newly established Arch Diocese of St. Andrews. Greenland had its own archbishop and diocese but there was most likely not a bishop staying there post 1400 A.D. Even though bishops were to serve in the diocese of Gandar (Greenland), they functioned more like substitute bishops.
Around the time of the Reformation Hamar bispedømme (diocese) and Oslo stift (diocese) were united. This took place around 1541 when the previous Oslo bishop “Hans Rev” became the new superintendent over Hamar bispedømme and Oslo stift in 1541. There seemed to have been plans for putting Stavanger stift under Bergen, and Trondheim seemed to a degree to have been ruled from Bergen as well for the first eight years post 1537. Trondheim received its own superintendant for the 1st time in 1546.
From early on to about 1814 there were only four stift in Norway.
• Oslo/Kristiania/Christiania • Tronheim/Nidaros • Bergen • Stavanger
From 1572 to 1645 the county of Jämtland (now in Sweden) was under the jurisdiction of Trondheim. Sunnmøre was transferred to Bergen stift in 1622, while Valdres and Hallingdal stayed under the jurisdiction of Stavanger until 1631 when they were transferred to Kristiania stift. Prior to 1682 the bishop’s residence was in Stavanger; but that year it was moved to Kristiansand and the name changed from Stavanger stift to Kristiansand stift.
At the time of the Reformation old connections to the dioceses in the Islands (British Isles) were disconnected. These are the ones that did not fall under the jurisdiction of the Church of Scotland and they were now to report to the rulers in Copenhagen. However, immediately after the reformation the Faroe Island as well as Stavanger to a certain degree was to report to Bergen stift.
From 1536-1800 there were no significant changes in the Norwegian dioceses. By 1804 Nord-Norge had its own bishop, and Tromsø stift was for the 1st time established in 1844. In 1863 Hamar became its own diocese. The term Bispedømme became the official term for a diocese instead of stift in 1918.
11 Dioceses form 1918:
• Olso bispedømme • Borg bispedømme • Hamar bispedømme • Tunsberg bispedømme • Agder bispedømme • Stavanger bispedømme • Bjørgvin bispedømme • Nidaros bispedømme • Sør-Hålogaland bispedømme • Nord-Hålogaland bispedømme • Møre bispedømme
The Dioceses are currently organized into two parallel structures. The Prosti and a Kirkelig fellesråd (united church council).
The Catholic Church in Norway Norway was like a “mission field” from 831-1103. It was organized under the archbishop in Reims, France. Later, around 1152, the Norwegian church was organized under Lund (at that time in Skåne, Denmark). The Archbishop seat in Nidaros (Trondheim) was established in 1152/53.
By 1070, before the country had its own archbishop, there were three dioceses with three archbishops seat: Alpsa, Biargina and Nithirosa, now know as Oslo, Bjørgvin (Bergen) and Nidaros. Eventually there were five bishop seats.
Today there are three Catholic Church district (one diocese and two territorial prelates) in Norway.
• Oslo Catholic Diocese • Trondheim Catholic Stift • Tromsø Catholic Stift
References: -Det statistiske Centralbyrå . Norges civile, geistlige, rettslige og militære Inndeling. (Kristiania: Aschehoug & Co, 1922). Accessed 9 November 2012. -Wikipedia. “Bispedømme”. <http://no.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bisped%C3%B8mme>. Accessed 9 November 2012 -Wikipedia. “Oslo Bispedømme”. <http://snl.no/Oslo_bisped%C3%B8mme>. Accessed 9 November 2012. -Wikipedia. “Kirken”. <http://www.kirken.no/?event=doLink&famID=1926>. Accessed 9 November 2012.