Lyse Abbey or Saint Mary’s Abbey, Lyse (Norwegian: Lyse kloster, Lyse Mariakloster) is a now-ruined Cistercian monastery in the municipality of Os in the county of Hordaland in south-western Norway. The name „Lyse“ is derived from the Lysefjorden, „the fjord of light“, near which the building stood. The abbey lies at the southern base of the Lyshornet mountain.
Lyse Abbey was founded in 1146 by Sigurd, Bishop of Bergen, on farmland that he owned, as the Christianisation of Norway was nearing completion. The first monks were brought from Fountains Abbey in Yorkshire, England. This was the first Cistercian monastery in Norway and was modeled on others built in England and France.
As with all Cistercians, the monks took a vow of poverty. Renouncing all sources of income except from farming, they developed considerable skill in farming operations and management. Over time, this led to the abbey acquiring many other farms in the area, making it ever more rich and powerful. In all, the monastery had about 50 other farms in Os with at least as many more in other areas.
After the Reformation
The abbey was dissolved in 1537 when Christian III of Denmark decreed Lutheranism to be the state religion of Norway. The abbey’s possessions were confiscated, becoming the property of the King. Over the next two centuries, the stones of the monastery structures were gradually removed and contributed to buildings such as the Rosenkrantz Tower in Bergen, and Kronborg Castle in Helsingør in Denmark. Some stones were shipped as far as Germany.
The monastery today
The ruins are protected as a national monument and archaeological work to preserve and record the site continues. The monastery is a well-visited tourist site with good nature walks nearby. It is common for couples today to be married at the ruins, or at least to have wedding photographs taken there.