The restoration of the Nidaros Cathedral was initiated in 1869, the same year as Gustav Vigeland was born. After several fires and years of negligence, the original church was almost completely destroyed. In the 1890’s the work had proceeded so far that the sculptural decoration of the church was on the agenda. Instead of “copying” medieval sculptures, new artworks were created in gothic style.
In the 1890’s Vigeland tried to survive as a sculptor, something which turned out to be very difficult. Commissions were few and far between, and to work for the Cathedral in Trondheim must have seemed at least as a temporary solution.
In 1897 Vigeland sent four different sketches of the same subject matter, as well as two medieval heads, to architect Christie, who was in charge of the work in Trondheim. Christie responded enthusiastically. In March 1898 Vigeland received his first commission; a small statue of St. Olav.
In October the same year Vigeland went to Trondheim to work at the site. He received commissions as the work in the Cathedral proceeded. The studio was miserable; It had no oven, only a hole in the floor which led warm air from the offices underneath, and at times it was so cold that the clay that he worked with froze during the night.
His first task was to make 16 gargoyles for the main tower. In these works Vigeland could let his vivid imagination run free. All in all Vigeland modelled 44 sculptures for the Nidaros Cathedral. The ones that are most well-known are the seven sculptures above the screen wall. They were cut in oak and painted. Vigeland also modelled four angel reliefs and reliefs for the baptismal font.