Built right after the Viking age – in the Middle Age there were probably more than 1000 stave churches in Norway. Today, there are only 28 left, nine of them are located in Western Norway.
A stave church is a wooden church from the middle age. Most of the Norwegian stave churches were built right after the Viking Age around year 1100-1200 AD. The name “stave church” comes from the construction of the buildings; large ground beams of wood are placed on a foundation of stone, then internal wooden pillars (staves) are interconnected and also connected to the outer walls.
Stave Churches in the Fjords
Here you will find information, pictures and videos of the stave churches in Western Norway. The oldest stave church was built at Ornes by the Lustrafjord around year 1130AD. and is part of our common UNESCO World Heritage. One of the newest was built on the small island Grip in the Atlantic Ocean between year 1450 – 1500 AD. Undredal Stave Church by the Aurlandsfjord is the smallest church in Norway.
Urnes Stave Church is the oldest of the remaining stave churches, and is one of four UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Western Norway. The church was built around year 1130 AD, and is situated at Ornes by the Lustrafjord in Luster. The Lustrafjord is a branch of the 204 kilometer long Sognefjord.
Borgund Stave Church was built around year 1181 AD. at Borgund in the Lærdalsdalen valley in Lærdal, Vestland. This is the most visited stave church in Norway, and with its charasteristic design it has often been used as a “model” when other stave churches has been restored or built. There is a visitor center and café near by where you can buy tickets and get information about the church.
Hopperstad Stave Church in Vik in Sogn has a similar construction as Borgund Stave Church in Lærdal. It was built around year 1130 AD. and is one of our oldest stave churches.
Around year 1880 AD. the church was reconstructed, and Borgund Stave Church was used as a “model”. It is believed that the church originally was similar to Borgund Stave Church. Most of the interior is preserved as it was originally.
Kaupanger Stave Church has been in continous use since it was built around year 1140 AD. It is one of the largest Stave Churches in Norway, and is built with wood from the forest around Kaupanger.
The church is situated on the hillside above the Kaupanger Bay by the Sognefjord, which originally is an old Viking trading town. The name Kaupanger origins from the two norse words “Kaup” (to buy) and “angr” (bay).
Undredal Stave Church in Undredal is Norways smallest church and had its 850-years celebration in year 1997. The year 1147 AD. is found in the carvings inside the church and is used as the official date of the building.
A visit or a guided tour inside the stave church can be ordered via Visit Undredal.
Rødven Stave Church is situated in Rødven down by the beautiful Rødvenfjord which is a branch of the Romsdalsfjord. It is believed that Rødven Stave Church was built around year 1300 AD, but the stave church has older wood-materials and is probably from between year 1100 and 1200 AD. Rødven Stave Church is one of two stave churches that have exterior wooden pillars to support and to stiffen the building structure.
Røldal Stave Church is estimated to be built between year 1200 and 1250 AD. The original church was built with the stave construction. During reconstructions in 1844 and between 1913 and 1918 AD, it was discovered that Røldal Stave Church was different from other stave churches. The original walls were covered and protected by new outer walls during the last reconstruction.
Kvernes Stave Church is, together with Rødven Stave Church, one of two stave churches that also have exterior wooden pillars to support and to stiffen the building structure. It was until recently believed that Kvernes Stave Church was built around year 1300 AD. But after dating new samples of the timber, the church is now dated to year 1633 AD. This is quite a big sensation, it was not believed that the “stave constuction” was used this late.
From Kværnes Stave Church, there is only a short drive to the Atlantic Road which is one of 18 National Tourist Routes in Norway, and also voted as the construction of the twentieth century in Norway.
To visit Grip Stave Church, you need to go by boat. The stave church is believed to be built around year 1300 AD, and is located on Grip Island on the Atlantic Coast, 14 kilometer north west of Kristiansund in Møre og Romsdal. The stave church is placed on the highest point in the middle of the island, and it is protected from the storms by the surrounding houses.
The altarpiece was donated by Princess Elisabeth of the Netherlands after being rescued by Norwegian sailors during a violent storm in 1515 AD.
Grip Stave Church is one of Norways smallest churches, and is open for visit every day during summer. A round trip by boat from the pier in Kristiansund to Grip can be done twice a day from early June until late August. This roundtrip, including boat trip and guiding on the island, takes approximately 3.5 hours.
Stave Churches – Useful Links