Hove Church is the oldest stone building in the Sogn region and probably one of the oldest in the country. It has been dated to the end of the 12th century. The church is named after Hove farm. Rich burial finds from Roman times show Hove to be an early chieftain’s residence and historians think the church may have been built by a prominent landowner as a private chapel. The existing church may have been built on the site of an earlier chapel, but this is very uncertain.
The church is constructed of ashlaring walls with a square west tower, rectangular nave and lower rectangular chancel and apse. The south door is at the base of the tower, whilst there are south doors in the chancel and the western end of the nave. The masonry work of the western part of the church is noticeably less precise than that of the eastern end. The difference can also be traced in the profile of the foundation and is probably attributable to either different stages of building or a change of masons.
When the architect Peter Andreas Blix was directing restoration work on Håkonshallen in Bergen in the 1880s, he was offered a supply of soapstone by a builder in Vik. He later found out that this -supply- was Hove Church, which was to be demolished. The church had been deconsecrated in 1870. To stop the demolition, Blix finally purchased the church and restored it out of his own pocket.
Blix’s objective was to restore the church to its original appearance. He set stringent specifications for the quality of work to be carried out and the soapstone used for repairs to the walls and the finishing of doorways and windows was brought from the old soapstone quarry onsite.
Blix removed everything from the interior that did not originate from the middle ages. Then he added further decorative detail. He commissioned the medieval style decoration on the walls and the glass painting of the windows.
When Blix died in 1901 he was buried beneath the church.
Edited extract from Erling Bjørnetun’s article in A voyage through the history of Norwegian building, Fortidsminneforeningen’s properties through 150 years, Oslo 1994.