Most Beautiful Stave Churches in Norway

Imagine you’re on vacation in Scandinavia and you’ve been wanting to see some of the beautiful medieval wooden churches that are found in this region. You did a little research before your trip and you discovered that there are many different types of churches, but you’re especially interested in seeing the Stave churches.

You come across a list of the most beautiful Stave churches in Norway and decide to make a point to see them all. Each one is unique and beautiful in its own way, and each one has a fascinating history that is worth learning about. Be sure to check out pictures of these amazing churches!

Stave Churches and their History

A Stave church is one of many types of medieval wooden churches built in Scandinavia, particularly in Norway. The name “Stave Church” comes from the Latin word “stapulae”, referring to pillars used for support during mass.  These churches were built by craftsmen in the middle of the 12th century, but they are strikingly different from churches that had been built until that point. Many scholars believe that these churches were influenced by similar structures found in France.

Stave churches were made almost entirely out of wood with only a few stones used for support and surrounding parts of the building, such as the roof.  The walls were made from vertical planks of wood that were held together with iron or wooden pegs.  This type of construction is stronger than the traditional post-and-beam design which required less timber overall but was more susceptible to problems resulting from rot and fire damage.

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why each Stave Church is Unique and Beautiful

Each Stave church is unique, but they all share certain characteristics that define them as Stave churches.  All of the churches are characterized by their tall roofs with overhanging eaves on all sides.  A distinctive feature of these roofs is their four triangular sections which are often decorated with carvings of dragons and other creatures of Norse mythology.

Each church also has two portals with ornamental rib vaults, giving the entranceways a distinctive look when compared to other types of churches. Another key characteristic is that stave churches are generally much taller than other medieval wooden churches in Scandinavia.  Some have speculated that this may be because part of their purpose was to provide a tall space where the local populace could hold services and pray.  The tall design was also made possible by using very tall trees, such as pine or spruce, for the pillars that support the roofs.

Borgund Stave Church

Borgund Stave Church

Borgund Stave Church is the oldest existing church in Norway, built around 1150. Its planks are arranged vertically and held together by wooden pegs rather than nails, giving it extra durability.  Its ship design includes decoration with dragon heads on either side of the roof ridge, along with other carvings not seen anywhere else in the country.  The carved dragon heads holding rings in their mouths were used to tether ships, illustrating just how important this church was for seafarers and farmers alike.

Hopperstad Stave Church

Hopperstad Stave Church

Hopperstad Stave Church has a reconstruction of a lantern tower added to the roof, which gives it a unique appearance compared to other churches. It was built during the 12th-century in brown.  It also houses incomparably beautiful carvings inside and out, making it an absolute must-see when visiting Norway.

Kvernes Stave Church

Kvernes Stave Church

Kvernes Stave Church is located on the small island of Kvernes and is completely surrounded by water.  The historic church is located near the Kvernes Fjord in the village of Kvernes, just north of the current church. The white, wooden church was erected in a rectangular stave church design sometime during the early 14th century. About 200 people may fit inside the chapel.

Urnes Stave Church

Urnes Stave Church

Urnes Stave Church is considered to be one of the most beautiful churches in Norway, with its incredibly breathtaking interior. The details are extremely intricate and ornate, making it a very important example of the artistic carvings that were so common in this type of architecture. The church was built in a long basilica plan with cylindrical columns and semi-circular arches within. The decoration on the column capitals and outside of the church reflects the visual evidence of Viking culture’s change, assimilation, and adoption of Christianity.

Lom Stave Church

Lom Stave Church

Lom Stave Church is the furthest north of all the churches on this list, and it was originally built to serve travelers.  It’s also one of the few stave churches that still have a preserved medieval wall painting inside.

Haltdalen Stave Church

Haltdalen Stave Church

Haltdalen Stave Church was built in the 12th century, and the only reason we know that is thanks to a runic inscription on one of its walls. The church is now on display at the Sverresborg Trøndelag Folkemuseum in Trondheim, where it may be seen. It is a single-nave stave church of the east Scandinavian style and is the only one that survives. This church is not as well-known as some others, but it’s definitely worth seeing if you’re interested in the history and architecture of these churches!

Kaupanger Stave Church

Kaupanger Stave Church

Kaupanger Stave Church is another church with some fascinating history, as it was built near an old pagan cult site.  Some of the original pagan shrines were discovered under this church when it was being restored, and a stone with a sun design was found in the wall.

Heddal stave church

Heddal Stave Church

Heddal stave church, Notodden is the largest remaining stave church in Norway.  It’s also one of the few examples in this country built on a cruciform plan, which was not very common.

Hedalen stave church

Hedalen Stave Church

Hedalen stave church, Oppland was built in 1163, Hedalen stave church is possibly the oldest in the region of Valdres.  It was dedicated to Saint Margaret, but it now serves as a parish church.  The only major renovation work carried out on this building was during the 1800s.

Røldal stave church

Røldal Stave Church

Røldal stave church, Hordaland County, Røldal was once a pilgrimage site in Norway during the medieval period, and it is still popular today.  It is one of the most beautifully preserved stave churches in Norway.  Construction on this church began in the late 13th century and it has remained largely unchanged since then.

Gol stave church

The Gol Stave Church

The Gol stave church, Oslo was initially located in Gol, Hallingdal. It was taken down and relocated to Oslo in the 1880s as directed by King Oscar II of Sweden and Norway. This church has recently been renovated and is now on display at the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History.

Norway has a long and rich history, which is reflected in its architecture. The Stave churches are some of the most well-preserved examples of this type of architecture and are worth seeing if you’re ever in the area. They all have their own unique features that make them beautiful, with each one having fascinating histories worth learning about.

More info: Visit Norway


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