20 Jun 2012

The Pagan Sites of Europe Remembered (17): Ranheim, Norway

An artist's illustration of the temple site at Ranheim

In 2011, the site of a pagan temple was discovered in Norway at a place called Ranheim, 10 km north of the city of Trondheim. The discovery came when builders were excavating foundations for new houses. The temple was apparently built sometime around or after the year 400 AD, and was used for hundreds of years until the suppression of pagan religion in the 11th century. It consisted of a processional route, a stone-set sacrificial altar, and a hut for idols. These idols were in the form of poles with carved faces of Thor, Odin, Frey and Freya.

The altar, where it is believed animals were sacrificed, consisted of a circular stone setting 15 meters in diameter and a meter high. The hut for the idols was 5.3 x 4.5 meters, and was raised with 12 poles, each having a solid stone foundation. The processional road lay to the West of the hut and was marked with two parallel rows of large stones.

The site is located in an area from which large numbers of pagans emigrated to Iceland in order to continue their pagan religion. It is thought that the temple site was dismantled and buried to hide it from the Christians, while the pagan followers took the idols with them on their journey in the hope of founding a new temple.

Discussions are now underway about whether to continue the building work as planned or adjust the plan to accommodate the remains of the temple.

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