Urnes Stave Church is an exceptional example of traditional Scandinavian wooden architecture

Urnes Stave Church is situated on a promontory in the remarkable Sognefjord on the west coast of Norway . The stave churches constitute one of the most elaborate and technologically advanced types of wooden construction that existed in North-Western Europe during the Middle Ages. The churches were built on the classic basilica plan, but entirely of wood. The roof frames were lined with boards and the roof itself covered with shingles in accordance with construction techniques which were widespread in Scandinavian countries. Among the roughly 1,300 medieval stave churches indexed, 28 are preserved in Norway today. Urnes is one of the oldest.

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 Copyright: Innovation Norway Credits: C H - Visitnorway.com Photographer C H
Sculpted decor
Visitnorway.com – Photo: C H

Urnes Stave Churche expresses in wood the language and spatial structures of Romanesque stone architecture, characterized by the use of cylindrical columns with cubic capitals and semi-circular arches.

The wood carving and sculpted decor of exquisite quality on the outside includes strap-work panels and elements of Viking tradition from the previous building (11th century) which constitute the origin of the “Urnes style”, also found in other parts of Scandinavia and North-Western Europe. These carvings are found on the northern wall with a carved decoration of interlaced, fighting animals.

In the interior of the church, there is an extraordinary series of 12th century carved figurative capitals. The carvings are important both as outstanding artistic artefacts, and as a link between the pre-Christian Nordic culture and the Christianity of the medieval ages. The church also contains a wealth of liturgical objects of the medieval period.


A World Heritage Site

Urnes Stave Church was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1979.

The stave churches are representative of the highly developed tradition of wooden buildings that extended through the Western European cultural sphere during the Middle Ages. Urnes is one of the oldest of the Norwegian stave churches and an exceptional example of craftsmanship. It is an outstanding example of the use of wood to express the language of Romanesque stone architecture.

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