NORWEGIAN STAVE CHURCHES

In addition to the preserved stave churches in Norway, which are described later on this page, there is a stave church in Hedared, Sweden and a church in Greensted, Essex in England which, with a little good will, you can call a stave church. Also, there is the old Vang stave church from Valdres Valley, Norway, which was pulled down and sold to the King of Prussia, Fredrik Wilhelm IV. He moved it to Karkonosze (Mountains) in Karpacz Górny (now Polish territory) and rebuilt the stave church there.

However, there some replicas of stave churches buildt in Norway, Denmark and USA for the furtherance of the tourist trade, and among others there are a replica of the Borgund stave church in the Black Hills of South Dakota, USA. This copy was built in 1950 by Arndt E. Dahl in commemoration of his father, Reverend Anton E. Dahl, who emigrated from Norway. Dahl's church was built using iron nails, although it was unusual for old Norwegian stave churches to use iron nails. (In the replica the nails were covered with wood plugs). There is also a plan to develop the Scandinavian Heritage Park in North Dakota, USA, at which the Gol stave church will be replicated.

Among funny things there was in the 1870's buildt a church with stave church architecture in Bílá in Czechia , which was not buildt for the furtherance of the tourist trade, but for ordinary use and which still is in ordinary use. Acording to Jurí Langer (Alvheim & Eide, Kirkearkeologi og kirkekunst, ISBN 82-90359-60-8, side 217 ff.) the choice of architecture had to be the access to I. C. Dahls paintings from the 1800's of Norwegians stave churches, and that they found the inspiration in his paintings.

Boat construction and home building in the Viking times had developed the technique and tradition of combining art with wood working. This culminated in the stave churches. There are several types of stave churches but the common element to all of them is that they have corner-posts (“staves”) and a skeleton or framework of timber with wall planks standing on sills. These walls are known as stave walls, hence the name stave church.

There is reason to believe that most stave churches were built upon old Norse heathen, holy places or temples, which were destroyed after Christianity was introduced in Norway around the year 1000.

Slagen Church yard
Slagen Church yard with heathen grave mounds.

Most churches built in Norway before the Black Death swept across the country (and Europe as well), in the years 1349-51, were stave churches. There must have been approximately 800 - 1000 stave churches in Norway, although there are only 25 stave churches today which are preserved at their original location. Five stave churches have been moved, re-erected and preserved at new locations. Two stave churches are stored at the storehouse of The Norwegian Folk museum.

Two Norwegian stave churches are “signed” by the their craftsmen. In the Torpo and Ål stave churches runic inscriptions have been found which read: "Torolf built this church".

The oldest type of stave churches were built in the 1000’s, but the timber of their walls were set directly into the ground and, as a result, they quickly rotted away.

In the 1100’s it became customary to set the walls on beams or sills above ground. This was a decided improvement, as is borne out by the fact that all the stave churches still standing - and they are 700 to 800 years old - rest on such sills.

There are several kinds of stave churches. The simplest have only a nave, with a narrower chancel - in these churches the roof rests on the walls. Some stave churches have a tall, sturdy upright or mast in the middle which supports the ridge turret and strengthens the walls (Nore and Uvdal). The biggest and most elaborate type has a central section with a lofty ceiling, which is supported by freestanding posts resting upon the floor. A lower aisle encircles the central area (Borgund).

Stave churches are often richly ornamented, with the portals in particular being lavishly carved. Some of these churches are decorated with wall and ceiling paintings

Urnes stave church is entered on UNESCO’s World Heritage List of most valuable cultural memorials in the world.

The following is a alphabetized list which describes the preserved Norwegian stave churches.



BORGUND STAVE CHURCH
Borgund STAVE CHURCH Lærdal in Sogn. Built just before 1150, and dedicated to the Apostle St. Andrew. It is one of the best preserved stave churches and it has not been added or rebuilt since it was new. The pulpit is from the last period of the 1500’s. The altar-piece is from 1620.

On the church walls are found several runic inscriptions. Two of them are dated back to the middle of the 1100’s. They read: "Tor wrote these runes in the evening at the St. Olav’s Mass" and "Ave Maria"



EIDSBORG STAVE CHURCH
Telemark. Probably built in the early 1200’s, this church is dedicated to the traveler’s patron, St. Nicholas of Bari. The painted figures and ornaments from the Renaissance were uncovered during the 1927 restoration.

Pictures of the copy of Eidsborg Stave Church:
Eidsborg-1, Eidsborg-2, Eidsborg-3, Eidsborg-4, Eidsborg-5, Eidsborg-6, Eidsborg-7.


FANTOFT STAVE CHURCH
Bergen. This church were built at Fortun in Sogn, but was pulled down and purchased privately by Consul F. Gade. It was then transported from Fortun in Sogn and re-erected on his estate at Fantoft near Bergen, whereupon it was painstakingly restored in the 1870’s. In 1994 the Fantoft (Fortun) stave church burned down and was completely destroyed. After the fatal fire in 1994, there was a strong desire to build a new copy of the church, and this work was finished in 1997.
Pictures of the copy of Fantoft Stave Church:
Fantoft-1 (52 Kb), Fantoft-2 (48 Kb), Fantoft-3 (48 Kb), Fantoft-4 (40 Kb).



FLESBERG STAVE CHURCH
Buskerud, Numedal. Probably built in the last part of the 1100’s. Rebuilt to a cruciform church in 1735.
Picture of Flesberg stave church (36 Kb)



FÅVANG STAVE CHURCH
Gudbrandsdalen, Oppland. The church was rebuilt as a cruciform church approx. 1630 with materials from other stave churches. The altar-piece and pulpit are in Renaissance style. The chancel-arch was carved and painted by a local artist in 1758. The church was restored in 1951.



GARMO STAVE CHURCH
The Garmo stave church is from Lom, Gudbrandsdal. It was probably built in the 1100’s, but has been pulled down and re-erected at the museum named Maihaugen in Lillehammer. The pulpit was made in Romsdal on the west coast of Norway. The remaining inventory consists of the 17th and 18th century Gudbrandsdal pieces, restored and partly reconstructed.



GOL STAVE CHURCH
Gol STAVE CHURCH Constructed about 1200 with staves (pillars) to support the roof.

Pulled down and moved from Gol in Hallingdal and re-erected in 1885 at King Oscar II’s place, Badstubråten.
It is now part of the Norwegian Folkmuseum, Bygdø in Oslo.

Picture of Gol Stave Church
Picture of Gol Stave Church
Picture of Gol Stave Church
Norwegian Folkmuseum, Oslo



GRIP STAVE CHURCH
Grip stave church may have been built in 1470. It is a one-nave stave church, and is one of the simplest and smallest of all stave churches. It was restored in 1629, 1860-70 and in 1933.

Grip stave church is situated on the highest point (26 foot above sea level) of the storm tossed island of Grip, which is located in Nordmøre. The island was populated by poor fishermen, harbor pilots and their families at one time. Today, the island is uninhabited and the Grip Stave church is used only every third weekend during the summer.

Due to the concerted effort of certain people, there is a possibility that this stave church will be pulled down, moved and re-erected at Kristiansund museum.
Picture of Grip with a timetable for the boat between Kristiansund and Grip



HALTÅLEN STAVE CHURCH
This church now stands in the Sverresborg museum in Trondheim, Trøndelag Folkemuseum. It was probably built in the 1100’s and is the only preserved east Scandinavian-style stave church. It is a simple one-nave design, which was very typical in Trøndelag and Sweden.



HEDAL STAVE CHURCH
Valdres Valley, Oppland. It was originally a stave church built in the late 1100’s. The church is mentioned for the first time in 1327. In 1699 it was enlarged to a cruciform church. In the sacristy one can see the skin of a bear which, according to the legend, was shot in the front of the altar when the church was rediscovered in the woods after the Black Death. This stave church may also be referred to as the Hedalen stave church.



HEDDAL STAVE CHURCH
Heddal STAVE CHURCH Telemark. This church was built approximately 1250. It was restored and enlarged in 1849-51. In the 1950’s it was again restored - to its original design.

Heddal Stave Church's home page
From Heddal about Heddal stave church
From Heddal about the legend about Heddal stave church



HEGGE STAVE CHURCH
Øystre (East) Slidre in Valdres Valley, Oppland. This church is mentioned for the first time in 1327, but it is at least 100 years older. It is of the basilica type with 8 columns. The altar-piece was carved by a local artist in 1780.

During the restoration in 1923-24 a runic inscription was found, which says: "Erling Arnson wrote these runes".



HOPPERSTAD STAVE CHURCH
Hopperstad STAVE CHURCH Vik in Sogn. This church was built approximately 1150. It is a triple-nave stave church and has a Gothic altar-baldaquin with sculptured heads, as well as decorations and paintings in the ceiling depicting the childhood of Christ.

This stave church was saved from demolition on the initiative of the architect Peter Blix. The Association of Historical Relics bought the church in 1880, and Blix restored the church at his own expense on the basis of plans he designed. The only inventory Blix had from the old church was a canopy dating to around 1300.

The western porch is among the supreme examples of Middle Age wood carvings in Norway. The motives are completely of Romance character, something which is associated with European art.



HURUM STAVE CHURCH
Forget this name! This is the Høre stave church! The word “Hurum” is a Danish-Norwegian spelling of the word - Høre. The word Hurum is a holdover from the Danish period, when the Danish were not aware of the Norwegian language spoken in Ryfoss in Valdres Valley, Oppland. Nobody in Valdres Valley will use the word Hurum to describe the Høre stave church. You can still find the Hurum-name in the literature, although you won’t find the term Høre therein.

See Høre Stave church.



HYLESTAD STAVE CHURCH
From Setesdal. This stave church was pulled down. The portal is now exhibited at the University Museum of Antiquities in Oslo.



HØYJORD STAVE CHURCH
Andebu, Vestfold. This church was built in two phases. The first part was built in the late 1100’s, with the second phase following approximately 100 years later. It is the only stave church in Vestfold. The church was restored in 1948.

This church is one of only two preserved stave churches having a stave or pillar in the middle of the church. Originally, the church had an earthen floor, with benches along the walls where old and weak people might sit. Others had to remain standing during the mass.

The church has 12 staves, in addition to the one in the middle, all of which serve to support the building. Each stave is unique among the others. Along the walls one can see 8-10 crosses which were dedicated at the time the church was first used.

Picture of Hřyjord stave church (46 Kb)
Picture of the runic pin.
Picture from Hřyjord stave church.
Picture from Hřyjord stave church.
Picture from Hřyjord stave church.
Picture from Hřyjord stave church.
Picture from Hřyjord stave church.
Extern link: From Andebu about Høyjord stave church



HØRE STAVE CHURCH
Ryfoss in Valdres Valley, Oppland. The Høre stave church was built approximately 1180 and rebuilt around 1820. The carvings in the churchyard gate, originally part of the church, are very beautiful.

As is often the case, the existent Høre stave church is the second church built upon the present site. Underneath this church have been found the remnants of a church dated to approximately 1100. This earlier church was likely pulled down after the staves rotted. The staves had been dug directly into the ground.

Tombs have also been found under the church, including those of children. Additionally, the remains of fetuses have been found, along with evidence of a ceremonial burial as well.

One runic inscription is inscribed upon the pulpit, saying: "This summer when the brothers Elling and Audun cut the trees for this church, Erilng Jarl was killed in the battle of Nidaros".

It is likely that the well known Duke of Skule, from the sagas, was married in Høre stave church in the 1200s.

See Hurum stave church.



KAUPANGER STAVE CHURCH
Kaupanger stave church Sogn. This church was built approximately 1180 and is one of the largest stave churches. It has freestanding masts which support the roof of the center section. The roof of the nave was rebuilt in the 1600’s. It was at this time that the church acquired its altarpiece and pulpit, as well as the two richly carved and painted sepulchral tablets. The church owes its present appearance to restoration work carried out in the 1960s - when the tendrils and vines painted on the walls once more came into their own.

Picture of Kaupanger stave church inside (67 Kb)



KVERNES STAVE CHURCH
Nordmøre. This one-nave stave church may have been built as early as the 1200’s. When it was rebuilt in 1633, the nave’s front door was moved from the west side to the south side of the church. It was rebuilt in 1776 and 1810, with the presently standing tower being erected at the latter date. In 1894 the Kvernes stave church was sold to The Association of Historical Relics.

Kvernes was an ancient holy site, where the heathen Norsemen came to pray to their gods and bury their dead. This holy site was prominently and centrally located for everyone which came by boat from the islands in the area.

Picture of Kvernes stave church (41 Kb)



LOM STAVE CHURCH
North-Gudbrandsdal, Oppland. This church has a triple-nave and many columns. It dates from the end of the 1100’s. In the 1600’s it was enlarged to a cruciform church. The chancel was decorated in 1608 and the chancel-arch was carved in 1793. The acanthus leaves of the pulpit are more recent work. The Lom stave church was restored in 1933.



LOMEN STAVE CHURCH
Vestre (West) Slidre, Valdres Valley in Oppland. The church was built in the last part of the 1100’s. The church , supported by 4 columns, has lavishly carved portals, chancel-arches and column capitals. In form and size it corresponds to the Høre stave church in the neighboring parish.

Picture of Lomen stave church (63 Kb)



NORE STAVE CHURCH
Numedal, Buskerud. This church was likely built in the last part of the 1100’s. The center mast is the key to the whole system of timbering. The Nore stave church, and the neighboring Uvdal stave church, were converted into cruciform churches in the 1720’s.

  • Picture of Nore stave Church
  • Picture of Nore stave Church
  • Picture of Nore stave Church
  • Picture of Nore stave Church
  • Picture of Nore stave Church
  • Picture of Nore stave Church



    REINLI STAVE CHURCH
    Reinli stave church Valdres Valley, Oppland. This church was built approximately 1140, but it is mentioned for the first time in 1327. The altar screen is made from a medieval Madonna triptych. The pulpit bears the stamp of the Renaissance. From the Reinli stave church, one is offered a wide view of the Valdres district.



    RINGEBU STAVE CHURCH
    Ringebu STAVE CHURCH The middle part of Gudbrandsdal, Oppland. This church was built in the first part of the 1200’s. It was converted into a cruciform church approximately 1630 and restored in 1921. The church is mentioned for the first time in 1270.
    Picture of Ringebu stave church inside (74 Kb)



    ROLLAG STAVE CHURCH
    Numedal, Buskerud. This church is mentioned for the first time in 1425, but it is older than this. The medieval nave forms the core of Rollag stave church, although the church was enlarged and rebuilt towards the end of the 1600’s. The pulpit and the wall decorations are also dated from the 1600’s.

    Pictures of Rollag stave church:
    |.Rollag stave church I.| |.Rollag stave church II.| |.Rollag stave church III.| |.Rollag stave church IV.| |.Rollag stave church V.| |.Rollag stave church VI.|



    RØDVEN STAVE CHURCH
    Romsdal. This is an one-nave stave church, whose oldest components originate from the end of the 1100’s. It has been considerably altered during the course of time. A crucifix dating to the middle 1200’s belongs to the old interior.

    Picture of Rřdven stave church (50 Kb)



    RØLDAL STAVE CHURCH
    Hardanger. The church probably dates to the beginning of the 1200’s. The nave and chancel were decorated in the 1600’s. Healing powers were ascribed to the medieval crucifix. Annual pilgrimages continued far into the Protestant era. The church is mentioned for the first time in 1422.



    TORPO STAVE CHURCH
    Torpo stave church in Hallingdalen is the valley’s oldest building. It was dedicated to St. Margaret in the last part of the 1100’s. The carved porch and painted ceiling motifs from the St. Margaret legend are medieval.

    One runic inscription in the church says: "Torolf built this church".



    UNDREDAL STAVE CHURCH
    Aurland in Sogn. This is a simple, small one-nave church. It is mentioned for the first time in 1321, however, the year 1147 is inscribed upon the ceiling grinder. This indicates that the Undredal stave church is one of the oldest preserved stave churches. The church was rebuilt in 1722. In 1962 it was restored, at which time an interesting discovery was made. Paintings of mythic animals, as well as many symbolic signs, were found to be underlying at least three other coats of paint.



    URNES STAVE CHURCH
    Urnes STAVE CHURCH Sogn. This stave church is dated to approximately 1150, although some of the materials used are older. These materials, dated to around 1050, may have been used for churches that had been previously standing at the site.

    The north portal contains the oldest materials. It consists of, among other things, carved animal and plant motifs. The north portal had been the western front door of an older church dating from about 1050. The curved decorations display animal figures which look like snakes engaged in battle. The style in the north portal, as well as the exterior carvings are known as the Urnes Style.

    Underneath the church a runic inscription was found, which says: "Arne preast want to have Inga".

    The Urnes stave church is very well preserved and is the oldest stave church in Norway and Urnes stave church is entered on UNESCO’s World Heritage List of most valuable cultural memorials in the world.



    UVDAL STAVE CHURCH
    Numedal, Buskerud. This church is dated to the latter part of the 1100’s. It was rebuilt to a cruciform church in 1723. Uvdal stave church has a tall, sturdy upright or mast in the middle which supports the ridge turret and strengthens the walls.

    Two pieces of wood with runic inscriptions have been found underneath the floor. Upon one of these is written: "Eirik, write runes for me".
  • Picture of Uvdal stave church
  • Picture of Uvdal stave church
  • Picture of Uvdal stave church
  • Picture of Uvdal stave church
  • Picture of Uvdal stave church



    VANG STAVE CHURCH
    VANG STAVE CHURCH The Vang stave church was built in Valdres Valley, Norway, at the last part of the 1100's. The National romantic Norwegian painter, I. C. Dahl, fought in the 1840’s to have the Vang stave church preserved in its original location. However, he lost the battle and the church were pulled down and sold to the King of Prussia, Fredrik Wilhelm IV.
    King Wilhelm IV moved it to Karkonosze (Mountains) (part of Sudety Mountains) in Karpacz Górny (now Polish territory) and re-erected it, where it stands today!

    In old maps you can find the name Bierutowice, instead of the name Karpacz Górny. Karpacz Górny is a district of Karpacz - a small town (5200 inhabitants in 1980) of tourist, rest and sport meaning. In old books you might find the old German name Riesengebirge in Silesia as well.

    More pictures of Vang stave church:
    |.Vang1.jpg.| |.Vang2.jpg.| |.Vang3.jpg.| |.Vang4.jpg.| |.Vang5.jpg.| |.Vang6.jpg.|
    Link til Vang Stavkirke



    VÅGÅ STAVE CHURCH
    North-Gudbrandsdal, Oppland. The Vågå stave church is mentioned for the first time in 1130. About 1625-1630 it was rebuilt to a cruciform church, using materials from other pulled down churches. The font and the large crucifix are medieval, the pulpit and the altar-piece date to the 1600’s and the chancel-arch were carved and decorated in 1758.

    Picture of Vĺgĺ stave church (40 Kb)



    ØYE STAVE CHURCH
    Reinli stave church Valdres, Oppland. This church is dated to 1100-1200. In 1956 it was reconstructed to its present day parish church configuration using 156 pieces which had been found underneath the floor.



    ÅL STAVE CHURCH
    This church were pulled down in the 1880’s. The timber vaulting above the chancel, complete with painted decorations dating from the latter part of the 1200’s, were acquired by the University Museum of Antiquities, Oslo, which is where you can see it to day.



    STAVE CHURCHES WHICH HAVE DISAPPEARED
    Rennebu stave church . Gausdal stave church . Dovre stave church . Bjølstad stave church . Gaupne stave church . Hafslo stave church . Stedje stave church . Vangsnes stave church . Årdal stave church . Rinde stave church . Tonjum stave church . Bødal stave church . Røn stave church . Hemsedal stave church . Ulvik stave church . Nes stave church . Flå stave church . Bagn stave church . Grindaker stave church . Veggeli stave church . Atrå stave church . Mæl stave church . Dal stave church . Tuddal stave church . Vinje stave church . Øyfjell stave church . Vinje stave church . Nesland stave church . Sauland stave church . St.Tommas Kirken. Gransherad stave church . Liseherad stave church . Hof stave church . Tuft stave church . Gårå stave church . Veum stave church . Hyllestad stave church . Austad stave church . Vegusdal stave church . Sannidal stave church . Lardal stave church . Imshaug stave church . Kvie stave church . Ål stave church .... and many, many more.


    OTHER RELEVANT LINKS

    Norwegian Folkmuseum, Oslo

    HOLY PLACES AND RUNIC INSCRIPTIONS
    Until the last few decades, half of all discovered runic writings had been found within or upon churches. However, more recent archeological work, for example in Bergen, has uncovered many runic inscriptions not associated with a church.
    Hagia Sophia (inside)
    Runic innscriptions in Norwegian churches (in Norwegian and Norse).


    UNESCO’S WORLD HERITAGE LIST
    Urnes stave church is entered on UNESCO’s World Heritage List of most valuable cultural memorials in the world.


    Direct links to the other pages:
    |.Index.| |.Norwegian.runes.| |.Swedish.runes.| |.Danish.runes.| |.Greenlandic.runes.| |.Germanic.runes.| |.Anglo-Saxon.runes.| |.Elder.Futhark.| |.Odin's.Galder.Songs.| |.Sigdrifumal.| |.Secret.runes.| |.History.of.the.runes.| |.Norwegian.runic.inscriptions.| |.Symbols.| |.Daily.life.| |.The.Thing.| |.Raids.| |.Stave.church.| |.Art.| |.Links.to.runes.| |.Download-links.|

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    Created by Arild Hauge © Denmark, Aarhus 2002
    Please do not send me any attachments by email.

    Opdateret d. 5.8.2011