“Emanuel Vigeland’s Museum is one of Oslo’s best kept secrets”. I couldn’t agree more. I thought that I knew Oslo like the back of my hand but I’ve never heard of this museum before this summer. But it’s great, I like to think that Oslo can still surprise me after 30 years!
Emmanuel Vigeland (1875-1948) was the younger brother of Gustav Vigeland. He was a multitalented artist: painter, sculptor and stained glass maker.
In autumn 1894, he went to Oslo to study at the Norwegian National Academy. Then he travelled to Paris, Italty, Spain and the UK to develop his art. Most of his designs were inspired by Christianity, and he decorated the interior of many churches, mainly Norway.
The original plans for Emanuel Vigeland’s Museum show that the large hall was intended as an exhibition space for his paintings and sculptures. Only the end wall and the ceiling were supposed to be covered with fresco paintings. The building was erected in 1926 but in the 1940’s, all the windows were filled with brick and its character changed from museum to mausoleum. He named his future burial place Tomba Emmanuelle (Emanuel’s Tomb).
The building looks like a small windowless church. The barrel-vaulted room is completely covered with fresco paintings. The fresco is called “Vita” and depicts human life from conception till death in dramatic and often explicitly erotic scenes. Several sculptures of women giving birth adorn the floor.
The influence of his older brother’s work is more than noticeable.
It was Emanuel Vigeland himself who decided to keep the artificial lighting in the room to a minimum, so that the drama of Vita was gradually revealed, as the eyes of the visitors got accustomed to the darkness.
The place is very creepy and the feeling of unease might be reinforced by the remarkable acoustic which forces visitors to whisper.
The entry and exit to the mausoleum is very low. The urn containing ashes of the artist is in a niche above the entry, thus forcing all visitors to bow to him when leaving. It’s rumored that Emanuel was annoyed by always being in the shadow of his better known brother Gustav Vigeland and that this geste of morbid humour was his posthumous revenge.
The museum isn’t located in the city center but in Slemdal, on the line 1 of the T-bane, which goes to Holmenkollen. As Holmenkollen is one of the most popular attractions in Oslo, you have no excuse to not visit this creepy but interesting place!
Open on Sundays
Summer (15 May-15 September): 12:00 noon-17:00
Winter (16 September-14 May): 12:00 noon-16:00
T-bane no. 1 Frognerseteren to Slemdal station then 7 minutes walk.
Emmanuel Vigeland´s Mausoleum