Stave Church’s & Buildings, Norway



Thursday 30th August

Miss Stella has just spent the night in the ultimate freecamp position, just outside the Norwegian town of Ulefoss after a meagre 60km travelled yesterday.


However that did follow Tuesday and Wednesday of over 400km per day.

So since leaving Leedal on Tuesday morning the last 2 days have basically been church hopping down through the southern area of Norway, Still hilly still lots of lakes and rivers and still some stunning scenery.





Before we left on this trip we had come across a “stunning architecture” facebook page and had been intrigued by a medieval wooden church in Norway, so it was always on the to find list. The religious side of these is purely an interesting part of their history to us.

So after the one we came across in Lom we were even more excited to see some more of these amazing survivors of generations of religious reformation and warfare.

Firstly a bit about the “Stave Building Style”.

  • The stave – churchs are Norways unique contribution to world heritage, and many surviving church’s are now UNESCO protected as well.
  • Most of these churchs were built in the period 1130 -1350, (the black plague bought an end to new building)
  • Similar churchs existed elsewhere in Europe, (especially Scandinavia) but only the Norwegian ones have survived. The reformation period essentially caused there destruction.
  • Of the around 1000 original stave-church’s in Norway only 28 are still standing and these have been under the watchful eye of the Society for Ancient Monuments since 1877.
  • Many of these buildings changed shape during there lifetime, due the rules around size of church vs the church going population at the time, many were added onto or had pieces removed.
  • The church’s that survived the reformation period suffered through destruction of the original interior paintings and religious pieces such as the alters.

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Heddal. the largest remaining Stave Church and still in use as an actual Church, Weddings , Baptism’s and General Services, no Funerals. ( The  door is too narrow for a coffin)

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  • These “Stave Buildings” have survived the ravages of time because the timber groundframe rests on stone foundations. In fact there are remains of older churchs been found underneath the new foundations.
  • The other thing that has helped is that the main structural uprights or “staves” had been selected several years earlier in-situ, their heads were taken off and all branchs taken off. This meant that the natural saps continued to flow up and over the trunk and has provided natural protection.
  • The upright staves are held together with pincer beams
  • The rounded arches are made from angle joints or “knees” taken from strong naturally curved parts of the tree between the trunk and the roots.
  • The external wall-planks are set vertically (notched into carved slits in the Horizontal frames).
  • Limited light entered these church’s, the only light came from the very tall doors at the entrances and small port-hole windows high in the buildings.
  • These church’s originally had the bells within but the weight started to cause issues so they were shifted to separate bell towers.

The rest can be said with the photos; Also seen on just about every farm are the old storage sheds from the same era, these are carefully maintained and look to have pride of place on many properties.




Yesterday on our drive from Kongsburg to our last church visit at Heddal we came across the Kings Silvermine.


This mine was founded in the early 1700’s and was in production until 1956. With over 400kms of mines dug they go to a depth of over 1km deep and 6km into the hill.

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An interesting train trip deep into the hill and a wander round down there some amazing mining techniques through the ages and not a pleasant way to earn a living.

We were joined on our tour by a group of very cute pre schoolers and there multitude of carers. So funny as the hardhats didnt really fit them so the whole time you could hear the sound of plastic hats falling onto the stone floor. I am sure our PC New Zealand culture wouldnt allow 40 odd pre schoolers into an old mine shaft 2km into the earth.


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