July 22, 2012

The world's only floating church?

The harbour chapel in Sandefjord, on the south coast of Norway, could be the world's only floating church.

The chapel has a very unique architecture compared to most other churches. It is built on a raft, and its design is based on two boathouses that used to be located where the chapel is now moored.

The idea of a chapel on the pier originated in 1997, and was a suggestion by former vice mayor Inger Marie Aurlien, explains Per Ramberg, who carried the idea forward after Aurlien passed away in 2001.

"Aurlien's idea was to build a holy space close to Kilen in Sandefjord, which soon became a new neighborhood in Sandefjord, Ramberg says. An association led by Ramberg was established in 2000, whose goal was to build a pier chapel.

Different donors funded the church, and the foundation Kristian donated money for the actual raft. Most of the work was done by volunteers who wanted to lend a hand and see the project completed.

The names of several whalers that had passed away were put up on memorial plaques in the chapel - an industry Sandefjord became well-known for from the 1850s. Tourists as well as residents visit the chapel, and many people wish to see the names of the many whalers who never returned from the South Seas.


Julie Ryland

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