Urnes Stave Church

Ornes, Norway

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 construction techniques which were widespread in Scandinavian countries.

Among the roughly 1,300 medieval stave churches indexed, about 30 remain in Norway. Some of them are very large, such as Borgund, Hopperstad or Heddal churches, whereas others, such as Torpo or Underdal, are tiny. Urnes Church was selected to represent this outstanding series of wood buildings for a number of reasons, which make it an exceptional monument:Its antiquity: This church, which was rebuilt towards the mid-12th century, includes some elements originating from a stave church built about one century earlier whose location was revealed by the 1956-57 excavations.

The exemplary nature of its structure: This is characterized by the use of cylindrical columns with cubic capitals and semicircular arches, all of which use wood, the indigenous building material, to express the language of stone Romanesque architecture.

The outstanding quality of its sculpted monumental decor: On the outside, this includes strapwork panels and elements of Viking tradition taken from the preceding building (11th century). In the interior is an amazing series of 12th-century figurative capitals that constitute the origin of the Urnes Style production.

The wealth of liturgical objects of the medieval period: This includes Christ, the Virgin and St John as elements of a rood beam, a pulpit of sculpted wood, enamelled bronze candlesticks, the corona of light, etc.

Excellent conservation of a perfectly homogeneous ensemble: The embellishment of the 17th century (1601 and c. 1700) and the restorations of 1906-10 preserved its authenticity completely.



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Fylkesveg 331 390, Ornes, Norway
See all sites in Ornes


Founded: c. 1130
Category: Religious sites in Norway


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User Reviews

Tanja Swinkels (8 months ago)
We were really surprised and loved our visit here. It’s a bit difficult and expensive to get there (110kr pp + 160 kr for the ferry - this is a van and 2 ppl), but definitely worth it if you have the time. Hearing the stories from the guide and being able to ask questions was the highlight of our visit, eventhough we normally never like guided tours. The church and its history is really interesting and it’s really nice that everything is told by a local.
Ira Hoyer (9 months ago)
Yes it’s a detour from your touristy route, but it is the oldest stave church in the country! Unless you want to continue with the romantic drive on the church side of the fjord, leave the car at the parking lot from where ferry leaves, it will save you money and the hustle. On the other side it’s a quite steep uphill (about 1 km). Ticket include guided tour ( because it’s a destination for the cruise hoards, there were two groups and it was quite crowded, so I did not wait for the guided tour and just listened to the bus guide). It is not enough just to look at the church from outside. It is so interesting to sit on the bench inside and image how it was done centuries ago while listening to an interesting story.
Natalya Marquand (10 months ago)
Beautiful old wooden stave church on a hill in a tiny hamlet. Tickets available from building opposite and they have guided tours every half hour or so (and this is the only chance to see inside as the church is locked in between). Most visitors park in Solvorn and take the tiny ferry across (9 cars max, 45NOK for pedestrians, goes on the hour and returns on the half hour). It's about 25 minutes uphill from the dock to the church.
Michael Moreschi Jr (11 months ago)
Our guide was awesome and not only gave us information on the church and the time period but also the area. A bit of a walk to get up there, wear comfortable shoes
Rebecca Klenk (14 months ago)
An incredible living historical monument. This church has magic in the bones and is very much in use today. We visited in mid April 2023, a bit overcast with a late Spring start. The views are beautiful as it sits on top of a hill. There is a small visitor center and we had a guided tour. You are free to walk all around the graves and sit on the pews in the church. Just beautiful.
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