Marie Ihlen Wetlesen Gleditsch

Marie Ihlen (1876-1965) was born in Kristiania [now Oslo], the daughter of a Supreme Court lawyer. In 1898 she married the doctor Johan Arnt Hals Wetlesen, and moved to Verdal with him when he took up a position there the same year. Here they had two daughters and a son in short order. Tragedy struck the family when Johan Arnt was killed in a traffic accident with his horse and buggy in 1903. Marie then moved back to Kristiania.
In 1907 she married again, this time to the vicar Jens Gran Gleditsch. The family lived in the capital until 1923, but also with a stay in Arendal from 1912 to 1917. Jens was a liberal theologian, and it caused strong reactions when he was named the bishop of Nidaros [now Trondheim] in 1923.
In the 1920s there was continuous restoration work at Nidaros Cathedral, and the aim was that the Cathedral would appear as complete and restored as possible in time for the great church anniversary in 1930. This became a race against time and a search for funding. A weak point was the design of the West Front, which would basically appear as a temporary solution up to the anniversary. This was the time when Mrs Gleditsch, wife of the bishop, took the initiative which has secured a place for her in the history of Trondheim. Enlisting Queen Maud as the "protector", Marie Gleditsch organised a nationwide drive encouraging all women to deliver a piece of handicraft work to regional lotteries. The aim was to collect NOK 175 000 which would finance a magnificent Gothic rose window in the West Front of the Cathedral. This goal was reached, and the grand glass window was presented on St. Olaf's Day (29 July) 1930. By then, however, Marie Gleditsch was no longer in residence.
Bishop Gleditsch had a stroke 1927, and stepped down in 1928. Marie and Jens moved to Jar in Bærum, where Jens died in October 1931. Marie lived a long life. Bjarne Slapgard has written three documentary novels covering the rich life of Marie Gleditsch. The last book, "Under rose med rubin" [Under Rose with Ruby] outlines the efforts made to obtain funding for Nidaros Cathedral's most beautiful adornment.
Recommended reading: Bjarne Slapgard: Under rose med rubin [Under Rose with Ruby]. Samlaget, 1985.

Author: Einar Rædergård