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Frontpage News 2011 Fulfilled 750 year old vision

Covarrubias 025.JPG

Fulfilled 750 year old vision

With the help of the EEA Grants, the vision of a Norwegian princess living in Spain in the Middle Ages has finally become reality. St. Olav's chapel opened in Covarrubias this Sunday.

Already 750 years ago the Norwegian princess Princess Kristina of Tunsberg (the old name of the Norwegian city of Tønsberg) asked her husband to build a chapel to honor Olav the Holy in Spain. Last Sunday, 18 September 2011, the chapel was finally completed, financed in part by a €400,000 grant from Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway through the EEA Grants.

The chapel is located about two hours north of Madrid by car, in the small village of Covarrubias. For the opening of the chapel several official representatives from both Spain and Norway were present, as well as more than 1300 enthusiastic spectators.

In her speech, Norwegian Minister of Culture Anniken Huitfeldt talked about the enjoyment Norwegians in Spain get from the country’s rich cultural heritage. She also emphasised the possibilities for further cooperation based on the St. Olav Chapel and the EEA Grants.

The vision of the chapel is several hundred years old. Princess Kristina was the daughter of Håkon Håkonsson. He married her to Prince Felipe of Castile in order to strengthen diplomatic relations. Prince Felipe was the brother of Alfonso X and the marriage of 1259 initiated a new, common chapter in Spanish and Norwegian history. Kristina, however, never got to see her chapel being built.

Despite dating back to the Middle Ages, Kristina’s dream was never forgotten, and was eventually picked up by the Foundation of Princess Kristina. The foundation, which promotes cultural cooperation between Spain and Norway, has been spearheading the building of the chapel.

The shape of the chapel is a modernised version of the simple pre-roman church structure. The chapel is to be used as an arena and a meeting point for all kinds of people, regardless of their religious views and geographical origins. The chapel itself has the capacity to host about 150 people, whereas the outside area has room for as many as 800.

Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway have financed close to 40% of the total cost of the project. Local Spanish authorities as well as several Spanish and Norwegian companies are among the other contributors.

With Princess Kristina and the historical connection between Spain and Norway, the St. Olav Chapel is an important example of how the EEA Grants can be used for promoting cultural cooperation.

The Kristina Foundation is, together with the town of Covarrubias, responsible for maintaining and taking care of the chapel. Covarrubias also happens to be Tønsberg’s twin town.
Photo: Ingrid Bjerke / Norwegian Embassy in Madrid