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Its size and numbers of posts is what makes Kaupanger stave church stand out from other stave churches, as well as its interior. The church architecture is also quite different from other stave churches. There are very few carvings on walls, posts and other parts of the interior. This emphasizes the sense of height you get entering the church, and is the main reason why the church is considered a cathedral among stave churches. The fact that the church has been in continuous use, and still is the parish church, also adds to its unique character.
The first stave church was built in the first half of 11th century, shortly after Christianity was getting a firm foothold in Norway. Another church, with twice the size soon replaced it. Some time before 1140, the church burnt down. This led to the construction of the existing church, probably between 1140 and 1150. It was extended, probably soon after it was built, which means it today has 22 posts, a total size of 102 square meters and seating for 165 people.
The stave church and Kaupanger Manor is closely related. Archeological excavations revealed that the farm can be traced back to at least 1800 BC. What the farm looked like in the beginning is unknown. From the Iron Age, archeological traces indicate that the farm was among the bigger farms in the area.