Norway is the only country in Europe that still has wooden churches, so-called stave churches, which have existed since the middle ages. One of the most remarkable stave churches is the well-preserved Borgund Stave Church, being one of the oldest most preserved wooden buildings in Europe. It's one of Norway's most wonderful and significant contributions to the world's architectural heritages. On the outer walls of the stave church in Borgund, numerous runic characters were found.
Traditional architecture of stave churches
Contrary to its continental European neighbours, where gigantic cathedrals made of stone were already the standard, Norway had developed a similar technique in the middle ages, only using wood instead of stone. Stave churches are made of, hence the name stave churches, a construction consisting of staves and mainstays. One particular architectural element is that there's a skeleton scaffolding being held by free-standing mainstays and long, vertical staves covering up the cladding. The tradition to intertwine art with wood carvings, deriving from the Viking metier of ship and house building, is reflected in the way stave churches are built. It's especially the church entrances that are ornamented with flamboyant carvings. Stave churches were decorated in a way combining Christian ornamental elements with pre-Christian (pagan) motifs from the age of Vikings. All motifs, for instance dragons, were impressively interwoven with each other.
After the previous wooden church had to be replaced due to the fact that the wooden beams began to decay at some point, a new stave church was built in Borgund in 1180, dedicated to Apostle Andrew. To fight the decaying process, the craftsmen set the timber framework on a foundation stone. It turned out this was the improvement needed to extend the building's life expectancy. In order to build the church, there were more than 2,000 trees needed that were cut down not far from where the church stands today and carried to the construction site. With the aid of the indigenous people, the large staves were implemented in the ground and put up. They formed the major structure of the church.
How to get there
The Borgund Stave Church lies in Lærdal, at the Norwegian Sognefiord. As once were the sanctuaries of the Germanic tribes, the church is also located off the settlements.
By public transport
You may, for instance, use a bus taking you from Lærdal to Borgund Stave Church.
Going by car, you need to use Europe Street 16. Borgund is located between Fagernes and Sogndal in Lærdal, appr. 19 mi (30 km) eastwards of Lærdalsøryri.
Many visitors like to ride their bike from Lærdal to Borgund. The distance is about 16 mi (25 km). If you have no bicycle with you and still wish to do the tour, you may rent a bike from the bicycle rental in Lærdal.