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Elaborately carved wooden churches were once present in many parts of northwest Europe. Today, they are almost exclusively found in Norway.
During the Middle Ages, immense stone cathedrals were constructed in many parts of Europe. In Norway, a similar technique was used for building in wood. Thanks to the Vikings’ interest in boat construction and home building, the technique and tradition of wood carving was further developed. The work culminated in the stave churches.
There are several types of stave churches, but one thing they have in common is corner-posts (“staves”) and a framework of timber with wall planks standing on sills. These walls are known as stave walls, hence the name stave church.
The churches’ wooden doors and finials are beautifully carved. The decorations feature an intriguing combination of Christian motifs and what is often assumed to be pre-Christian Viking themes with animals and dragons.
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