With its attractive white clapboard structure and stubby spire, the Norwegian Church Arts Centre provides a striking counterpoint to the modern buildings in the Cardiff Bay development. How much do you know about it, though? Let us fill you in.
What is the Norwegian Church?
Cardiff's Norwegian Church is the oldest surviving church in Britain founded by the Norwegian Seamen's Mission. These days, it houses an arts centre, community space and a café that sells delicious cakes. Why not sit on the terrace and enjoy the lovely views out across the bay?
Why is there a Norwegian church in Cardiff?
During the late 19th century, thousands of Norwegian sailors visited Cardiff aboard merchant ships. These ships brought strong, straight Scandinavian timber to Wales so that it could be used to make pit props in the mines. Once they'd dropped off their cargo, they would pick up Welsh coal and export it all around the world.
Churches like this one, which dates back to 1867, were built to provide religious and social care to the Norwegian sailors who found themselves far from home for weeks on end. Some of them were so busy with their work, they never went home.
What does Roald Dahl have to do with the church?
Good question! One of the most famous members of the church’s congregation was best-selling children’s author Roald Dahl. He was born to Norwegian parents who lived on Fairwater Road in Llandaff, Cardiff.
His father Harald, who came to Wales from Oslo, co-founded a ship-broking company in Cardiff around 1880. Roald spent his childhood and school days in Cardiff. His family worshipped at the Norwegian Church when it was at its original location in the Cardiff Docks. In fact, he and his siblings were all baptised there.
When the church fell into disrepair in the 1970s, Roald was at the forefront of a campaign to raise money to save it. Funds were raised locally and in Norway, with the end goal of dismantling and repairing the church so that it could be relocated to a new site in Cardiff Bay in 1992, where it stands today.
Unfortunately, Roald didn’t live to see the project completed – he died several years earlier. The church is still in great shape and is well looked after. It was extensively renovated in 2011 and reopened on 17 May, Norwegian Constitution Day.
A gallery upstairs at the church hosts temporary exhibitions of photography and art by local artists. Naturally, it’s been named the Dahl Gallery. If you visit, look out for the silver christening bowl which belonged to the family and is now on show here today.
Are there other locations in Wales with links to Roald Dahl?
Absolutely! Most of them are in Cardiff as that's where he grew up, but there are other places in Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire. Here's our guide to Roald Dahl's Wales, if you fancy following in the footsteps of the literary legend.