Stave churches

Norwegian Folk Museum

Norsk Folkemuseum, the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History, is a museum of cultural history with extensive collections of artifacts from all social groups and all regions of the country. It also incorporates a large open air museum with more than 150 buildings relocated from towns and rural districts. Norsk Folkemuseum was established in 1894 by librarian and historian Hans Aall (1867-1946). It acquired the core area of ...
Founded: 1894 | Location: Oslo, Norway

Lom Stave Church

Lom Stave Church is a triple nave stave church that uses free standing inner columns to support a raised section in the ceiling of the main nave. This type of church is amongst the oldest stave churches. The church was first situated in a sub valley to the valley Gudbrandsdal in Oppland County, some 60 kilometers west of Otta. The church dates to approximately second part of 12th century, but was rebuilt into a cruciform ...
Founded: 1158 | Location: Lom, Norway

Heddal Stave Church

Heddal stave church is a triple nave stave church and is Norway"s largest stave church. It was constructed at the beginning of the 13th century. After the reformation, the church was in a very poor condition, and a restoration took place during 1849 - 1851. However, because the restorers lacked the necessary knowledge and skills, yet another restoration was necessary in the 1950s. The interior is marked by the period ...
Founded: c. 1210 | Location: Notodden, Norway

Borgund Stave Church

Borgund Stave Church is the best preserved of Norway"s 28 extant stave churches. It was built sometime between 1180 and 1250 AD with later additions and restorations. Its walls are formed by vertical wooden boards, or staves, hence the name 'stave church'. The four corner posts were connected to one another by ground sills, resting on a stone foundation. The rest of the staves then rise from the ground sill ...
Founded: 1180-1250 | Location: Borgund, Norway

Fantoft Stave Church

Fantoft Stave Church is a reconstructed stave church, originally built in Fortun in Sogn around the year 1150. In the 19th century the church was threatened by demolition, as were hundreds of other stave churches in Norway. The church was bought by consul Fredrik Georg Gade and saved by moving it in pieces to Fantoft near (now in) Bergen in 1883. Outside the church stands a stone cross from Tjora in Sola. On 6 June 1992, ...
Founded: 1150 | Location: Bergen, Norway

Hopperstad Stave Church

Hopperstad Stave Church is assumed to have been built around 1130 and still stands at its original location. The church is owned by the Society for the Preservation of Ancient Norwegian Monuments. In 1997, a series of samples from the logs were collected for dendrochronological dating of the church. A total of seven samples produced an estimate for the construction ranging from 1034 to 1116 and resulted in no definite co ...
Founded: c. 1130 | Location: Vik, Norway

Urnes Stave Church

The stave churches constitute one of the most elaborate types of wood construction which are typical of northern Europe from the Neolithic period to the Middle Ages. Christianity was introduced into Norway during the reign of St Olav (1016-30). The churches were built on the classic basilical plan, but entirely of wood. The roof frames were lined with boards and the roof itself covered with shingles in accordance with con ...
Founded: c. 1130 | Location: Ornes, Norway

Garmo Stave Church

Garmo stave church originally came from Garmo in Lom in Oppland county. The church is mentioned for the first time in 1363 AD, but is for sure much older, probably built in approximately 1190-1225 AD or even some earlier. It was built on the site of a previous church believed to have been built in 1021 by a Viking chieftain. The church consists of 17th and 18th century inventory with a pulpit from Romsdalen. In 1730, it w ...
Founded: 1190-1225 | Location: Lillehammer, Norway

Undredal Stave Church

Undredal Stave Church was built in the middle of the 12th century. The church has been moved from different locations and reconstructed a few times. Around 1850 the building was extended to the west with the addition of a clock tower and porch. In 1913 there were plans to dismantle the church and move it to a museum in Kaupanger, but this never happened. Instead it was reconstructed in 1984 and under extensive maintenance ...
Founded: c. 1147 | Location: Undredal, Norway

Kvernes Stave Church

From ancient times Kvernes has been of great religious and cultural importance at Nordmøre. The excavation of a white phallus stone, a sacred symbol of fertility, supports this fact. The stave church was built around year 1300 and has a rather large main nave (16×7,5 m) with external diagonal props supporting the walls. Several repairs/reconstructions have been carried out. In 1633 the stave-built chancelwas ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Averøy, Norway

Vang Stave Church

Vang stave church was bought by King Frederick William IV of Prussia and transferred from Vang in the Valdres region of Norway and re-erected in 1842 in Brückenberg near Krummhübel in Silesia, now Karpacz in Poland. It was originally used by a congregation belonging to the Church of Norway, then the Evangelical Church of Prussia, and now serves the Evangelical-Augsburg Church in Poland. The church is ...
Founded: c. 1200 | Location: Karpacz, Poland

Eidsborg Stave Church

Eidsborg Stave Church is one of the best preserved Norwegian stave churches. The church was probably built between 1250-1300. The church is dedicated to the traveller"s patron, St. Nicholas of Bari. It was partly reconstructed in the 19th century. The chorus was demolished in 1826. The new choir dates to the period 1845-50. The reconstruction work did not affect the structure or the shape of the church. It was restor ...
Founded: 1250-1300 | Location: Eidsborg, Norway

Ringebu Stave Church

Ringebu Stave Church was built in the first half of the 13th century. The church is first mentioned in 1270, although it can be older. It was rebuilt into a cruciform church around 1630 by master-builder Werner Olsen and in 1631 received its characteristic red tower. Of the original church only the nave remains, with free-standing posts in the inner area.Later restoration brought it back a bit closer to its original shape ...
Founded: c. 1220 | Location: Ringebu, Norway

Rødven Stave Church

According to a notice board outside the church, the nave and south porch of the Rødven Stave Church date from the 14th century, the crucifix dates from the 13th century and the pulpit from 1712. Inside are an ornately carved crucifix and pulpit. The church is a Møre-type stave church due to its structure and the exterior support posts that brace the walls. During an archeological survey in 1962-1963, marks were found fr ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Eidsbygda, Norway

Uvdal Stave Church

Uvdal Stave Church was originally constructed just after the year 1168, which we know through dendrochronological dating of the pine tree used during the construction. The logs were not completely dry when the construction took place. The church was made on top of the remains of previous church on the site, thought to have been made with the use of imbedded corner column technology at the beginning of the 11th century. Th ...
Founded: 1168 | Location: Nore og Uvdal, Norway

Torpo Stave Church

Built in 1192, the Torpo stave church is the oldest building within the valley and traditional district of Hallingdal. The church was dedicated to Saint Margareta. The stave church was purchased by the municipality in 1875. It was initially planned to expand it with an annex to the east, but in 1879 it was decided instead to modernize the interior with new ceiling and gallery. Following protest from the Ancient Monuments ...
Founded: 1192 | Location: Ål, Norway

Kaupanger Stave Church

Kaupanger Stave Church is the largest stave church in Sogn og Fjordane. The nave is supported by 22 staves, 8 on each of the longer sides and 3 on each of the shorter. The elevated chancel is carried by 4 free standing staves. The church has the largest number of staves to be found in any one stave church. It is still in use as a parish church, having been in use continuously since its erection. Kaupanger Stave Church wa ...
Founded: 1150 | Location: Kaupanger, Norway

Haltdalen Stave Church

Haltdalen Stave Church was originally located in Haltdalen, but today it is on display at the Sverresborg museum in Trondheim. The church was probably built in the 1170s. The church on display is a rebuilt version of two churches from Ålen and Haltdalen. The western wall and the portal is from the old Ålen church. This is a single-nave stave church of the east Scandinavian-style, and it is the only one that is ...
Founded: 1170s | Location: Trondheim, Norway

Vågå Stave Church

Vågå Stave Church, which was constructed around 1150, is one of the older stave churches in Norway. It was originally dedicated to St. Peter. The prior rectory was formerly called Ullinsyn. The older name of the site may show that even in pagan times, the location had been in use for worship. The church was converted to a cruciform church in 1626–28. Only the carved portals and decorative wall planks su ...
Founded: c. 1150 | Location: Vågå, Norway

Røldal Stave Church

Røldal Stave Church was probably built between 1200-1250. The church has a rectangular-shaped nave and chancel. The crucifix dates from about 1250. The altarpiece by German painter Gottfried Hendtzchell from Wroclaw in Silesia dates from 1629. The baptismal font is made of soapstone between 1200-1250. Bergen Museum holds a variety of building components and other artifacts from the medieval church. These include alter fr ...
Founded: 1200-1250 | Location: Odda, Norway

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte

The Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte is a baroque French château built between 1658-1661 for Nicolas Fouquet. It was made for Marquis de Belle Île, Viscount of Melun and Vaux, the superintendent of finances of Louis XIV, the château was an influential work of architecture in mid-17th century Europe. At Vaux-le-Vicomte, the architect Louis Le Vau, the landscape architect André le Nôtre, and the painter-decorator Charles Le Brun worked together on a large-scale project for the first time. Their collaboration marked the beginning of the 'Louis XIV style' combining architecture, interior design and landscape design. The garden's pronounced visual axis is an example of this style.

To secure the necessary grounds for the elaborate plans for Vaux-le-Vicomte’s garden and castle, Fouquet purchased and demolished three villages. The displaced villagers were then employed in the upkeep and maintenance of the gardens. It was said to have employed eighteen thousand workers and cost as much as 16 million livres. The château and its patron became for a short time a focus for fine feasts, literature and arts. The poet La Fontaine and the playwright Molière were among the artists close to Fouquet. At the inauguration of Vaux-le-Vicomte, a Molière play was performed, along with a dinner event organized by François Vatel, and an impressive firework show.

After Fouquet was arrested and imprisoned for life, and his wife exiled, Vaux-le-Vicomte was placed under sequestration. The king seized, confiscated or purchased 120 tapestries, the statues, and all the orange trees from Vaux-le-Vicomte. He then sent the team of artists (Le Vau, Le Nôtre and Le Brun) to design what would be a much larger project than Vaux-le-Vicomte, the palace and gardens of Versailles.

The Marshal Villars became the new owner without first seeing the chateau. In 1764, the Marshal's son sold the estate to the Duke of Praslin, whose descendants would maintain the property for over a century. It is sometimes mistakenly reported that the château was the scene of a murder in 1847, when duke Charles de Choiseul-Praslin, killed his wife in her bedroom, but this did not happen at Vaux-le-Vicomte but at the Paris residence of the Duke.

In 1875, after thirty years of neglect, the estate was sold to Alfred Sommier in a public auction. The château was empty, some of the outbuildings had fallen into ruin, and the famous gardens were totally overgrown. The huge task of restoration and refurbishment began under the direction of the architect Gabriel-Hippolyte Destailleur, assisted by the landscape architect Elie Lainé. When Sommier died in 1908, the château and the gardens had recovered their original appearance. His son, Edme Sommier, and his daughter-in-law completed the task. Today, his descendants continue to preserve the château, which remains privately owned by Patrice and Cristina de Vogüé, the Count and Countess de Vogüé. It is now administered by their three sons Alexandre, Jean-Charles and Ascanio de Vogüé. Recognized by the state as a monument historique, it is open to the public regularly.

Architecture

The chateau is situated near the northern end of a 1.5-km long north-south axis with the entrance front facing north. Its elevations are perfectly symmetrical to either side of this axis. Somewhat surprisingly the interior plan is also nearly completely symmetrical with few differences between the eastern and western halves. The two rooms in the center, the entrance vestibule to the north and the oval salon to the south, were originally an open-air loggia, dividing the chateau into two distinct sections. The interior decoration of these two rooms was therefore more typical of an outdoor setting. Three sets of three arches, those on the entrance front, three more between the vestibule and the salon, and the three leading from the salon to the garden are all aligned and permitted the arriving visitor to see through to the central axis of the garden even before entering the chateau. The exterior arches could be closed with iron gates, and only later were they filled in with glass doors and the interior arches with mirrored doors. Since the loggia divided the building into two halves, there are two symmetrical staircases on either side of it, rather than a single staircase. The rooms in the eastern half of the house were intended for the use of the king, those in the western were for Fouquet. The provision of a suite of rooms for the king was normal practice in aristocratic houses of the time, since the king travelled frequently.

Another surprising feature of the plan is the thickness of the main body of the building (corps de logis), which consists of two rows of rooms running east and west. Traditionally the middle of the corps de logis of French chateaux consisted of a single row of rooms. Double-thick corps de logis had already been used in hôtels particuliers in Paris, including Le Vau's Hôtel Tambonneau, but Vaux was the first chateau to incorporate this change. Even more unusual, the main rooms are all on the ground floor rather than the first floor (the traditional piano nobile). This accounts for the lack of a grand staircase or a gallery, standard elements of most contemporary chateaux. Also noteworthy are corridors in the basement and on the first floor which run the length of house providing privacy to the rooms they access. Up to the middle of the 17th century, corridors were essentially unknown. Another feature of the plan, the four pavilions, one at each corner of the building, is more conventional.

Vaux-le-Vicomte was originally planned to be constructed in brick and stone, but after the mid-century, as the middle classes began to imitate this style, aristocratic circles began using stone exclusively. Rather late in the design process, Fouquet and Le Vau switched to stone, a decision that may have been influenced by the use of stone at François Mansart's Château de Maisons. The service buildings flanking the large avant-cour to the north of the house remained in brick and stone, and other structures preceding them were in rubble-stone and plaster, a social ranking of building materials that would be common in France for a considerable length of time thereafter.

The main chateau is constructed entirely on a moated platform, reached via two bridges, both aligned with the central axis and placed on the north and south sides. The moat is a picturesque holdover from medieval fortified residences, and is again a feature that Le Vau may have borrowed from Maisons. The moat at Vaux may also have been inspired by the previous chateau on the site, which Le Vau's work replaced.

Gardens

The château rises on an elevated platform in the middle of the woods and marks the border between unequal spaces, each treated in a different way. This effect is more distinctive today, as the woodlands are mature, than it was in the seventeenth century when the site had been farmland, and the plantations were new.

Le Nôtre's garden was the dominant structure of the great complex, stretching nearly a mile and a half (3 km), with a balanced composition of water basins and canals contained in stone curbs, fountains, gravel walks, and patterned parterres that remains more coherent than the vast display Le Nôtre was to create at Versailles.

Le Nôtre created a magnificent scene to be viewed from the house, using the laws of perspective. Le Notre used the natural terrain to his advantage. He placed the canal at the lowest part of the complex, thus hiding it from the main perspectival point of view. Past the canal, the garden ascends a large open lawn and ends with the Hercules column added in the 19th century. Shrubberies provided a picture frame to the garden that also served as a stage for royal fêtes.

From the top of the grand staircase, this gives the impression that the entire garden is revealed in one single glance. Initially, the view consists of symmetrical rows of shrubbery, avenues, fountains, statues, flowers and other pieces developed to imitate nature – these elements exemplify the Baroque desire to mold nature to fit its wishes, thus using nature to imitate nature. The centerpiece is a large reflecting pool flanked by grottos holding statues in their many niches. The grand sloping lawn is not visible until one begins to explore the garden, when the viewer is made aware of the optical elements involved and discovers that the garden is much larger than it looks.