Stave churches – Norway’s contribution to world architecture

Stave churches were built in wood and were found across the northern parts of the European continent, including in Scandinavia.

It is virtually only in the rugged landscape of Norway that these unique buildings have survived, from the Middle Ages and up to the present. The stave churches are therefore an especially valuable part of our architectural heritage, and have become our most important contribution to world architecture. Urnes stave church was inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, as the only stave church, already in 1979. It thus not only represented itself, but also all of the other remaining Medieval stave churches. They are examples of the brilliant craftsmanship found in Norway with respect to structure, materials, decoration and interior.

However, even in Norway, we have seen a dramatic decrease in the number of stave churches. Before the Black Death reached Norway in 1349, there were around 1,000 stave churches across the country. As many as 2,000, if not more, were erected before the Reformation in 1537.

Only 28 have survived. They thus serve as important culture bearers and story tellers. They represent almost 1,000 years of Norwegian history, and still provide new knowledge about our shared past. Show respect and due consideration when you visit our stave churches. We want to pass them on in good condition to coming generations.