Shhh! It’s a secret! Emanuel Vigeland Mausoleum in Oslo, Norway

By Cacinda Maloney

The 60 something, certified tour guide with the short, wavy hair saw me immediately as I came out of the elevator.  She had been cancelled due to a tight schedule by some US Congressman, who were in town doing business and was assigned to me as my guide of Oslo.

Oslo, Norway, Vigeland, statues

Oslo, Norway

“So, what do you want to do first?”

Oslo, Norway

Oslo, Norway

“Well, I heard about this place, the Emanuel Vigeland Mausoleum, it looks very interesting.  I am pretty sure it will photograph well.”

Oslo, Norway

Oslo, Norway

“Oh, hmmm,  in the 20 years of taking people on tours, from families to dignitaries, no one has ever asked her to take them there!”

Oslo, Norway, Emanuel Vigeland Mausoleum

Lion statue in Oslo, Norway

I had read it was the best kept secret in Oslo and I guess it still is!

So over the course of the next few hours, she began telling me the history of Norway.  We walked and walked and walked.  I am not really much of a tour person, so it was quite hard for me to stay interested for too long because I like to wander and photograph.  She did well, as I know she didn’t quite get the attention she is most accustomed to.  Our hours were over and we had still not seen it.  I got the distinct impression that it was not really something on the agenda, which meant that I was going there next.

Emanuel-Vigeland-Museum, Oslo, Norway

Emanuel-Vigeland-Museum, Oslo, Norway

Up in the hills above Oslo, in an ordinary Norwegian neighborhood, there it stood.  I might have missed it if it wasn’t for the lone photographer standing out in front.  Number 8 Grimelundsveien Street.  It was a red brick, old church-like mausoleum with thousand year old oak trees swaying the in breeze.  The trees there are among the oldest living creatures in Norway and literally have roots that go back to the Middle Ages and to the Viking Age.

Emanuel-Vigeland-Museum, Oslo, Norway

Emanuel-Vigeland-Museum, Oslo, Norway

The mausoleum is shaped like a small windowless church, which has overwhelming acoustics that make speaking out loud almost impossible.   The shuffle of my feet sounded like snakes hissing. To enter, you go through this small door and peer into the darkness.

Emanuel-Vigeland-Museum, Oslo, Norway

Entry into Emanuel-Vigeland-Museum, Oslo, Norway

No photographs are allowed, which was a big disappointment for me, but worth it nonetheless, thus none of the four following photographs are mine.  The inside walls and roof are covered in a giant fresco depicting the human experience.

Emanuel Vigeland Museum

Emanuel Vigeland Museum courtesy of

Emanuel Vigeland Museum

Emanuel Vigeland Museum, Oslo, Norway
Photo courtesy of

Emanuel Vigeland Museum, Oslo, Norway Photo courtesy of

Emanuel Vigeland Museum, Oslo, Norway
Photo courtesy of

Emanuel Vigeland Museum, Oslo, Norway

Emanuel Vigeland Museum, Oslo, Norway
Photo courtesy of

In the darkness, you have to wait for your eyes to adjust, at least a good 10 minutes and as you shuffle around trying to figure out what you are looking at, suddenly you can see more clearly.  I sat in the middle of the room and tapped my foot, which sounded like thunder rolling in from outside.  I am quite uncertain about how acoustics work, but the sounds inside this hall were amazing.

Upon exiting the mausoleum, the door is very low and there is an urn containing Vigeland’s ashes in a niche above the exit door, thus forcing you to bow to him when leaving his space.

Emanuel-Vigeland-Museum, Oslo, Norway

Emanuel-Vigeland-Museum, Oslo, Norway

Rumor has it that he was annoyed at his more famous and older brother Gustav, so that this after-death humor was his revenge.  His brother has a famous sculpture park in Oslo.

Disclosure:  The guide was courtesy of Visit Norway USA and Visit Oslo, the visit to Emanuel Vigeland Mausoleum was at my own expense and the opinions expressed are mine own.

You may also like other articles about Norway:

How I climbed Preikestolen (Pulpit Rock) 

Ovre-Holmegate, Stavanger, Norway’s Nottinghill

Edvard Munch:  The Scream, What makes you scream?

A Viking Queen:  The Viking Museum in Oslo, Norway





  1. Michael Kleiner August 4, 2013 at 4:49 pm

    Interesting, never knew about this either. Don’t miss his brother’s sculpture park. Plenty of photo opportunities. Gustav’s studio is a museum across the street on Nobels Gate. In the spring, fall and summer, there are walking trails, tennis courts in the park. In the winter, it is transformed into cross-country skiing trails, the tennis courts become ice hockey and figure skating rinks. The year my family lived in Norway, we lived around the corner from the Park (also known as Frogner Park because Frogner is the name of the neighborhood.) I taught myself to skate on a patch of ice somewhere in the Park. The area is also known as Majorstua and I went to Majorstua Skole just off Kirkeveien in the direction of the train station.

    If you want to see a museum off-the-beaten track, try the International Children’s Art Museum. It looks like another house on the residential street.
    Art work from children ages 2-18 from 150 countries is exhibited. It has been honored by The Lego Group and UNESCO. Artwork is grouped thematically. I believe it is the stop after Majorstua on one of the train lines and before Blindern, the station for the University of Oslo.

    • admin August 4, 2013 at 8:19 pm

      Yes, his brothers park is my next stop. Thanks for all the information, as I am sure it will be helpful to my readers.

  2. Eric August 6, 2013 at 10:43 am

    Great photos–beautiful!

    What a cool story–so glad you can dig up these esoteric gems for us to get excited about.

    • admin August 6, 2013 at 10:56 am

      Thank you Captain Aux! Yes, I do like off the beaten path kind of places! It was eerie, yet amazingly beautiful at the same time.

  3. Jenna@Webjet August 13, 2013 at 11:53 am

    Wow, sounds like you had an amazing experience! I know the pictures aren’t all yours but they all are amazing and they make me want to explore this seceret spot ASAP! Thanks so much sharing the story 🙂

    • admin August 13, 2013 at 12:18 pm

      Yes, as a photographer, when I originally saw the photos, that was the first place I wanted to go. Of course when I got there, they said “no photos”. Secretly, I wanted to take a few, but it just didn’t feel right, and I try to listen to my instincts! All the other photos of Oslo are mine and you will definitely enjoy Norway! I had no idea it would be so pristine!

  4. Michelle - Very Hungry Explorer August 16, 2013 at 7:51 pm

    This sounds and looks amazing! Such a shame you weren’t able to take pictures.

    • admin August 16, 2013 at 9:39 pm

      I know, for a photog, it was horribly disappointing, but very intriguing none the less.

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