The abbey, dedicated to Saint Laurence, was founded in its present location during the reign of King Magnus VI of Norway (1263–1280). It was a house of Augustinian Canons. It appears however that this community was the one previously established as St. Olav's Abbey, Stavanger, one of the earliest Augustinian monasteries in Norway if not the very earliest: the exact date of its foundation is unknown, but it was well established by 1160.
At its height, about 20–30 monks lived there, with twice as many lay people working on the building, the cooking and the farming. The abbey owned extensive lands, and could feed about 250 people a year. It was dissolved in 1537 during the Reformation and was given in fee to Trond Ivarsson, a nobleman who served as local bailiff. It served as a private residence for many years. The property came under the control of the Garmann (1706) and Schancke (1885) families. In 1899 the estate was acquired by the state.
Utstein Abbey is the best-preserved monastery in the whole of Norway, still using both the church and the eastern and southern part of the ground floor of the conventual buildings. In 1900-1904 major restoration work was carried out on the church, and in 1965 work on the remaining buildings was completed. The monastery was restored under plans designed by architect Gerhard Fischer. Church west window were reconstructed, the ceiling was rebuilt with the original angle and all interiors have been restored and put in a position so that the buildings now serve as venue for concerts, seminars, conventions, etc. It is now owned entirely by the Utstein Kloster Foundation. The abbey can be reached from Stavanger in 30 minutes by road through the Rennfast undersea tunnel.
The Utstein Abbey is also well known for its role in hosting conferences for development of reporting guidelines in emergency medicine, resuscitation, and traumatology. The first Utstein conference was held at the Utstein Abbey in 1990 and resulted in the publication of guidelines for uniform reporting of data from out-of-hospital cardiac arrest, the Utstein Style.
- Fischer, Gerhard (1965) Utstein kloster. Kongsgård - kloster - herregård (Stavanger)
- Lexow, Jan Hendrich (1987) Utstein kloster i middelalderen(I: FNFB. Årbok)
- Ekroll, Øystein; Stige, Morten; Havran, Jiri (2000) Middelalder i Stein (Kirker i Norge, Oslo) ISBN 82-91399-09-3
- Haug, Eldbjørg (2005) Utstein kloster- og Klosterøys historie (Stiftelsen Utstein Kloster) ISBN 82-303-0536-6.
- Utstein Abbey website, with images (Norwegian)
- Route from Stavanger (Norwegian)
- Norges kloster in middelalderen: Utstein (Norwegian)
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