Utstein Monastery

Norway’s only preserved medieval monastery

Utstein Monastery is Norway’s only preserved medieval monastery. It lies in beautiful surroundings on the island of Mosterøy, a 30 minutes drive from Stavanger. The monastery is today a museum.

The site of Utstein Monastery is mentioned in historical records dating back to the Eleventh Century, when it was mentioned as having been a farm belonging to King Harald Fairhair after the Battle of Hafrsfjord in 872.

Construction of the monastery started in about 1260, although some parts may be older and may date from the earlier royal farm on the site. The church is unique in Norway, with its tower situated centrally between chancel and nave.

The Augustinians lived a pious life. Discipline was strict, with regular prayer, scripture reading and mases. Probably not more than 12 Augustinians lived at the monastery, but there certainly would have been many servants who did the farming, built buildings and prepared food. The monastery owned a considerable amount of land and was wealthy enough to support 250 people year-round.

After the Reformation, the monastery was unlived in for long periods and the buildings fell into disrepair. When Christopher Garmann moved here in 1750, the buildings were refurbished, although in some cases in a very different form. The monastery structure thus became a farmhouse and was used as such until the early 1930s.

Around 1900, the church’s chancel and tower were restored, while the rest of the property was renovated in the 1950s and ‘60s. It was then that the foundation ‘Stiftelsen Utstein Kloster’ was set up. Utstein monastery opened as a museum in 1965. It became part of the consolidated Museum Stavanger (MUST) in January 2012.