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Gol Stave Church

It is estimated that around 2000 stave churches were built between 1150 and 1350. This had to be an enormous achievement in sparsely populated Norway, meaning an average of 10 stave churches were erected each year. The accomplishment is no less impressive, considering all construction was done manually, using axes as the primary tool.

This was when Norway had just been converted to Christianity, and the true faith had not yet been fully embraced. It's interesting to observe some Norse symbols used in the churches, such as Thor's hammer above the entrance, dragons on the roof, Odin, Thor, and others standing and supporting the church roof (the masts). Why these symbols found their way into a Christian church remains unknown. History suggests that Norwegians were uncertain about the new faith and wanted to keep "one foot" in Norse beliefs just to be safe.

It is assumed that craftsman guilds led the construction of stave churches. When studying the construction, many aspects resemble boat building, which is precisely where these craftsmen gained expertise through centuries of constructing Viking ships and other boats. Hence, they possessed the skills to create some of the finest examples of wooden architecture.

Garðar kirkja
The original Gol stave church was moved to the Norwegian Folk Museum on Bygdøy in Oslo, belonging to the reigning monarch of Norway. Studies indicate that the church was built after 1216, with elements dating as early as 1157.

The old stave church site is in the hamlet where Gol was located at the time, 300 meters southwest of the current Gol church on Leikvollen in Golreppen. The stave church was used until 1881, when Gol got a new one. Gol Stave Church began to deteriorate significantly in the 1800s. The church was also heavily modified due to increased space requirements. In 1882, the church was sold to the "Association for the Preservation of Norwegian Ancient Monuments," it was moved to Bygdøy Kongsgaard, now the Norwegian Folk Museum. The church was restored to its original form and size during the reconstruction at the folk museum, with doubts about the reconstruction, using Borgund Stave Church in Sogn as a model. Borgund Stave Church is considered the sister church to Gol Stave Church, possibly built by the same craftsmen.

Gol Stavkyrkje
The church on Storeøyne (the island in Gol) replicates the original stave church from the 1200s. The church was completed in 1994 and consecrated on July 10. Gol Stavkyrkje consists of a nave, ambulatory, gallery, choir, and apse. Three spires stand on the main roof. A challenge in copying a stave church today is the absence of the old, coarse pine forests. Suitable materials are hard to find. Behind the copying of Gol Stavkyrkje lies approximately 10 years of work. Local artisans built the church, and the woodcarving and furnishings were done by Hans Slettemeås from Telemark. Most of the timber was sourced from the valley. Textile artist Karin Stang created the textile work on the apse wall. The man behind the project is civil engineer Torbjørn Rustberggard from Gol.

Stave Church - Why is it called a stave church? The reason lies in the robust masts (staves) supporting the church. The stave principle involves standing wall panels enclosed by sills above and below, with corner columns at each end.

Source: Hallingdal Reiseliv


Gol Stave Church

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