I love visiting unusual churches, so I was excited to visit Urnes stave church, a UNESCO World Heritage site, in September 2023.
You can drive there or cross the beautiful Sogn fjord from Solvorn on the ferry and walk up the hill to the church.
The wooden church of Urnes (the stavkirke) stands in the natural setting of Sogn og Fjordane. It was built in the 12th and 13th centuries and is an outstanding example of traditional Scandinavian wooden architecture. It brings together traces of Celtic art, Viking traditions, and Romanesque spatial structures.
The carvings on the Urnes church can be interpreted with Viking or Christian mythology, depending on your world view.
There are only 29 stave churches left in the world, as most burned down or were replaced by more modern structures. The Urnes church is the oldest.
The ‘staves’ refer to the architectural design, with stave poles on a raised platform.
The interior was warm and dark, with huge stave pillars stretching up to the ceiling.
There was more Viking decoration on the tops of the pillars.
And Christian art in the sculpture of Jesus above a cross-piece of timber to reinforce the load.
The altar was small and set further back.
I love ancient doors and this one is beautiful.
I was on a hiking trip to the fjords of Norway, so I was thrilled to be able to see some ecclesiastical architecture at the same time!
Books featuring Norway and Vikings
- Norse Mythology — Neil Gaiman. Mythological retellings from a master of fantasy writing.
- Day of the Vikings — J.F. Penn. Neo-Vikings storm the British Museum in London to retrieve a cursed Viking sword and usher in Ragnarok, the Viking apocalypse. Only Morgan Sierra can stop them …
- The Sea Road — Margaret Elphinstone. This vivid historical saga of Viking exploration follows the adventures of an intrepid 11th century woman who voyages to North America.
- The Half-Drowned King — Linnea Hartsuyker. Drawing from the Icelandic Sagas, The Half-Drowned King takes inspiration from the true story of Ragnvald of Maer, the right-hand man of King Harald Fairhair, first king of all Norway, and his sister, Svanhild, as she tries to find freedom in a society where the higher her brother rises, the greater her worth as a political pawn.
- The Last Kingdom — Bernard Cornwell. In a land torn apart by conflict, an orphan boy has come of age. Raised by the Vikings, deadly enemies of his own Saxon people, Uhtred is a fierce and skilled warrior who kneels to no one.