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Cistercians Abbeys: LYSE

Name: LYSE Location: nr Bjorkasen District: Os
Foundation: 1146 Mother house: Fountains
Relocation: None Founder: Bishop Siward
Dissolution: 1536 Prominent members:
Access: Open to the public

Cloister arcading at Lyse Abbey
© Dr Roger Pyrah
<click to enlarge>
Cloister arcading at Lyse Abbey

Lyse was founded by Bishop Siward, of the ancient see of Bergen, after he visited the monks at Fountains. A group of monks arrived in 1146 and they settled on a farm in Bergen. The full name of the abbey was ‘Holy Maria Monastery in Lyse’ and was one of five Cistercian monasteries to be founded in Norway. The design of the abbey was based on that of Fountains. The monks played a significant role in the areas history. The community introduced fruit growing in Hardanger, which is now the most famous fruit area in Norway. The monks grew a variety of herbs and brought the ‘Masterwort’ plant into the country, which was said to have been a strong medicine and thought to have had magical powers. The monks also farmed the surrounding land, fished for salmon in the river Os and transported goods to England. The abbey was the largest in Norway and possessed the finest orchards in Hardanger.
The abbey was dissolved in 1536 when the Danish king converted Denmark and Norway, which were at that time united, to Protestantism. Lyse was closed and the stone was taken away to be used in the building of a castle in Copenhagen.
Today the remains include the church and tower and some low walling of the monastic buildings. The site is open to the public all year round.