A stave church has been built three times on the same site here at Orneset. A hundred years would pass between the first and the third, the one we can visit today, which was built in 1150. It was once a private church for a powerful high-born family. Its builders were aware of international trends in architecture, and transferred these trends from stone to wood.
The timber was felled in the years 1129-1130. On the long northern wall, original decorated sections from the demolished church have been used: the portal, wall planks and a corner post. The decorated gables from the same church are now covered to prevent wear and tear.
In 1979 it was included on UNESCO's World Heritage List. Ownership of Urnes stave church was transferred to the Society for the Preservation of Norwegian Ancient Monuments in 1880. The society's logo is taken from the carved capitals inside the church.
Similar churches existed elsewhere in Europe, but only the Norwegian ones have survived. Of the original approximately 1,000 churches, 28 remain. Urnes stave church is the oldest and most highly decorated of them.
The stave churches are Norway's unique contribution to the world's cultural heritage. Most were built between approximately 1130 and 1350, when the Black Death brought all new building to an end.
Urnes stave church is located in Luster, by the Sognefjord. Read our fjord guide to fin information on how to get to the Sognefjord.
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Urnes Stave Church in Luster, beside the Sognefjord, is the only stave church in the world to be included on UNESCO´s World Heritage List.
Urnes Stave Church
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