Three years ago, we had an unforgettable holiday in Norway. Among the many fascinating places we visited, perhaps the most striking was the isolated stave church at Urnes which we reached by travelling across Sognefjord on a ferry from the village of Solvorn.
There are 28 medieval, wooden stave churches preserved in Norway. The 12th century church at Urnes is one of the oldest and has outstanding craftsmanship, including carvings which date from the previous building, made a century earlier than the present church. It is a UNESCO heritage site.
The name stave church comes from the building’s post and lintel construction, the main post (stav in Norwegian) taking the load.
The iconography is beautiful and in remarkably good condition. It appears to be a curling snake with an animal at the bottom trying to bite it. Some believe this represents the fight between good and evil but it may portray the end of the world from Norse mythology.
The church is not large but its interior is ornate. Although much of the decoration was added in the 17th century, there is a carved, painted, crucifixion scene high above and a candelabra in the shape of a ship standing on the altar. Both objects date from the 12th century.
Photography inside the church is forbidden but you can view internal pictures here.