In 2016, a new commercial building was planned to be built in the courtyard behind Søndre gate 9-11 in Trondheim. Because this was a central area in Kaupangen, the name for Trondheim city during the Middle Ages, the archaeological excavation attracted a great deal of attention.
Gradually, a number of stone fragments were uncovered which were interpreted as the remains of a church, or several phases of a church. Archaeologists also uncovered a number of other items, including the remains of a large stone altar, fragments from a baptismal font, a crucifix, parts of a well and several skeletons in an adjacent cemetery.
Carbon dating tells us that the church must have been erected around the year 1015, and that it is almost certainly Olav Haraldsson's St. Clement’s Church. This is the church where Olav Haraldsson became "Olav the Holy" when the saint's shrine was solemnly placed on the high altar on 5 August 1031. Now the location had finally been found!
St. Olav plays a special role in Norway’s history. He became "the eternal king of Norway" - rex perpetuus Norwegiaea in Latin.
There were national and international newspaper articles about the excavations of St. Clement’s Church, including a series in Adresseavisen. The Directorate for Cultural Heritage described the find as an archaeological sensation, and the most important discovery in Norway since the Second World War. The find was also ranked sixth overall on the International Heritage Daily’s "top-ten list” of archaeological discoveries in 2016.
The Viking-era buildings that were excavated under St. Clement’s Church give us new knowledge about Trondheim's origins. They indicate that the city is older than 997, which has traditionally been considered the year when Olav Tryggvason founded Trondheim.