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 conclusion. The only possible conclusion is that this is one of the oldest stave churches still standing.
About 700 years after its construction the church was abandoned and its exterior stripped. The church was in very poor condition for many years until the Society for the Preservation of Ancient Norwegian Monuments purchased the building in 1880. Using the Borgund Stave Church as a model, architect Peter Andreas Blix reconstructed the church between 1884 and 1891. During the reconstruction carved sections were found beneath the floor which indicates that the new church replaced an older church, which was probably built in the latter half of the 11th century.
The church had not undergone any major changes until the 17th century. At that time the nave was lengthened to the west, and a bell-tower was added above the new extension. To the east a log section was added, and a new vestibule to the south with its own entrance.
The largest addition came to the north with a log construction, named the new church (nykirken). The constructions were finalized in the 18th century, but then removed in around 1875. The font is placed under the medieval baldaquin. The walls are painted by numerous quotes from the Holy Scripture in vivid colours.
The church is a triple-nave stave church of what is known as the Borgund-type. It has three portals, and the western portal is an excellent example of Middle Age wood carving. The motifs are of a romance character, often associated with European influence. The nave is a raised central room with an aisle around it, and the choir is apsidal and narrower than the nave.
The church contains an altar dedicated to the Virgin Mary, and 14th-century ciborium with a baldachin on the north side. The ciborium has four sculptured heads, that of Christ with a halo, a queen, a king, and a monk. The roof of the baldachin bears a painting of the birth of Christ.References:
Derbent is the southernmost city in Russia, occupying the narrow gateway between the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus Mountains connecting the Eurasian steppes to the north and the Iranian Plateau to the south. Derbent claims to be the oldest city in Russia with historical documentation dating to the 8th century BCE. Due to its strategic location, over the course of history, the city changed ownership many times, particularly among the Persian, Arab, Mongol, Timurid, Shirvan and Iranian kingdoms.
Derbent has archaeological structures over 5,000 years old. As a result of this geographic peculiarity, the city developed between two walls, stretching from the mountains to the sea. These fortifications were continuously employed for a millennium and a half, longer than any other extant fortress in the world.
A traditionally and historically Iranian city, the first intensive settlement in the Derbent area dates from the 8th century BC. The site was intermittently controlled by the Persian monarchs, starting from the 6th century BC. Until the 4th century AD, it was part of Caucasian Albania which was a satrap of the Achaemenid Persian Empire. In the 5th century Derbent functioned as a border fortress and the seat of Sassanid Persians. Because of its strategic position on the northern branch of the Silk Route, the fortress was contested by the Khazars in the course of the Khazar-Arab Wars. In 654, Derbent was captured by the Arabs.
The Sassanid fortress does not exist any more, as the famous Derbent fortress as it stands today was built from the 12th century onward. Derbent became a strong military outpost and harbour of the Sassanid empire. During the 5th and 6th centuries, Derbent also became an important center for spreading the Christian faith in the Caucasus.
The site continued to be of great strategic importance until the 19th century. Today the fortifications consist of two parallel defence walls and Naryn-Kala Citadel. The walls are 3.6km long, stretching from the sea up to the mountains. They were built from stone and had 73 defence towers. 9 out of the 14 original gates remain.
In Naryn-Kala Citadel most of the old buildings, including a palace and a church, are now in ruins. It also holds baths and one of the oldest mosques in the former USSR.
In 2003, UNESCO included the old part of Derbent with traditional buildings in the World Heritage List.