There can be no doubt that maintaining the stave churches is demanding for their owners. In the 1990s, many of the churches were unfortunately suffering from a lack of maintenance and were in a state of disrepair.

The Norwegian Directorate for Cultural Heritage therefore found it necessary to establish a special stave church programme, which got off the ground in 2001. The objective of the national programme was threefold:

  • to repair the stave churches so they could be preserved for posterity
  • to preserve the decor and church art
  • to supplement documentation about the stave churches in order to provide a basis for research and the reconstruction of missing parts

This ambitious programme was carried out between 2001 and 2015, and has cost the Norwegian State a total of around NOK 130 million.

The many artisans who have taken part in the programme have also acquired a great deal of knowledge about traditional craftsmanship, so now, fortunately, many more craftsmen know how to use these techniques. This will create more local value creation with respect to future maintenance of the stave churches.

The work on the programme has been well documented by photographs and reports. Supplementary surveys and documentation are now in place. The work has required a cautious and analytical approach to prevent any needless damage. The goal has been to preserve as much as possible of the original parts.

The stave church programme has thus also provided a good foundation for research – especially about the stave churches, but also about cultural relics and craftsmanship traditions in general.

If you would like to know more about the stave church programme, a book has been published about this large and extensive project. It is available in Norwegian and English.