The Church of Norway (Bokmål: Den norske kirke, Nynorsk: Den norske kyrkja, Northern Sami: Norgga girku, Southern Sami: Nöörjen gærhkoe) is an evangelical Lutheran denomination of Protestant Christianity and by far the largest Christian church in Norway. The church became the state church of Norway around 1020, and was established as a separate church intimately integrated with the state as a result of the Lutheran reformation in Denmark–Norway which broke ties with the Holy See in 1536–1537; the King of Norway was the church's head from 1537 to 2012. Historically the church was one of the main instruments of royal power and official authority, and an important part of the state administration; local government was based on the church's parishes with significant official responsibility held by the parish priest.
In the 19th and 20th centuries it gradually ceded most administrative functions to the secular civil service. The modern Constitution of Norway describes the church as the country's "people's church" and requires the King of Norway to be a member. It is by far the largest church in Norway; until the mid 19th century the state church had a near-total monopoly on religion in Norway. It was the only legal church in Norway, membership was mandatory for every person residing in the kingdom and it was forbidden for anyone other than the official priests of the state church to authorise religious meetings. After the adoption of the 1845 Dissenter Act, the state church retained its legally privileged position, while minority religious congregations such as Catholics were allowed to establish themselves in Norway and were legally termed "dissenters" (i.e. from the government-sanctioned Lutheran state religion). Church employees were civil servants from the Reformation until 2017, when the church became a legal entity separate from the state administration. The Church of Norway is mentioned specifically in the 1814 constitution and is subject to the Church Act. Municipalities are required by law to support activities of parishes and to maintain church buildings and church yards. Other religious communities are entitled to the same level of government subsidies as the Church of Norway.
The church is led by ordained priests, traditionally and primarily divided into the ranks chaplain, parish priest (sogneprest) who was traditionally the head of a parish (prestegjeld; literally area that owes allegiance to a priest), provost (prost) and bishop. Today more priests may hold the title parish priest, while some priests who work directly under a provost are known as provostship priest (prostiprest). All priests were appointed by the King-in-Council until the late 20th century and thus held the status of embetsmann (higher civil servant appointed by the King). Prior to 2000 ordination required the theological civil servant examination (cand.theol.) that required six years of university studies, but from 2000 other equivalent degrees may also be accepted for certain applicants over the age of 35 with relevant experience.