Borgund Stave Church

August 8, 2015 Off By Ludvig Hoel

Borgund Stave church

Borgund stave church is located in Borgund in the Laerdal municipality in the county Sogn og Fjordane. Approx. 200 km east of the city Bergen, and 50 km from Flam. This church is considered as a very well preserved stave church -the most authentic of all- from the middle ages. With the incremental build- up of galleries, stages, raised center, ridge turret and shellfish-like shavings thatching roofs and walls. Borgund is by many been seen as the prototype of a stave church. It has frequently been the  model when other stave churches was to be restored.

The stave church has been attempted replicated a number of times. Fx in 1908 there was built a replica of the church in Germany and in the 50’s a replica was built in USA.

Historical signifigance

The beautiful stave church is built around the year 1180 and are richly decorated with dragon heads, another animal ornamentation and leaf vines. The medieval interior of the stave church stands almost as if it were untouched afterwards. The wooden floor and benches along the walls of the nave are also partially preserved in its original version. The construction in stave church is based on the use of bearing staves and pillars

The Borgund stave church is first mentioned in written records in 1342, but it is customary to date it to the period 1150-1200. Research have shown that the timber was used for construction of the church was felled in winter 1180-1181. The church must therefore be built in the period just after this, and probably well before 1200. The church is dedicated to the Apostle Andrew.

Architecture & Building Techniques

Most of the Borgund stave church’s medieval structure is preserved. The stave church consists of nave, apse and chancel with the gallery around, and both nave and chancel have a raised center and a gable roof. Apse towers have conical roofs. It is a superstructure middle of walls both to the north, south and west. The church also includes a standalone steeple with a clock from the middle ages.
The main structure in the nave and chancel with due logs, sleepers, poles, wall plates, diagonal braces and wall planks are original. The same applies to construction of the roof over the nave and chancel. The ridge turret of the ship, apse and the apse tower and cloister surrounding the church is also from the Middle Ages, but certain tracks may indicate that these items arrived at a somewhat later date.

The medieval interior of the Borgund stave church stands virtually untouched. Chancel screen is from the middle ages, however, it was removed after the reformation. The medieval wooden floor and benches along the walls of the nave are also partially preserved. Also a medieval stone altar and a baptismal font in soapstone is preserved. The interior choir wall has carved shapes and runes which probably stems from the middle ages. The internal pillars supporting the raised central space ship has carved masks. On the south wall of the nave are still consecration shoes tendon on the wall inside. On the south wall of the nave are still consecration shoes tendon on the wall inside. The interior choir wall has carved shapes and runes which probably stems from the middle ages. The internal pillars supporting the raised middle room in the ship’s upper finished with cutouts in the shape of grotesque masks.

 

Interior of the beautiful Borgund stave church

The pulpit is from the period 1550-1570 and the altarpiece originates from 1654, while the frame around the board dating to 1620. The painting of the altarpiece showing the Crucifixion in the middle, flanked by the Virgin Mary and John the Baptist. In the tympanum, hovers a white dove on a blue background. Under the picture there is an inscription with golden letters on a black background. In the church there are also preserved a sacrament cabinets from the period 1550-1570.

There are three portals in the Borgund stave church. The ship has portals to the west and south, and the choir to the south. It is richly decorated with animal ornamentation (interwoven dragons) and leaf vines. The south portal of the nave resembles west portal, but more modestly decorated. It has a carved lion standing on the chapter. The south portal of the choir is highly chiseled. The roofs are covered with traditional shingle of wood, and some are probably from medieval times.
Parts of the ship ridge were replaced in 1738, which also stated in an inscription in the decor of the comb. Also dragons ‘heads and the rest of the ceiling decorations have been replaced, but the dragons’ heads from the middle ages were preserved for posterity.

Archeological Surveys

The church stands on the original site and it was performed building archaeological surveys of the church in both 1969 and 1986. Under the floor archaeologists found traces of building parts that can stem from a former church on the premises.

The Borgund stave church was in regular use until 1868 when the new Borgund church was completed just beside. The cemetery is still in use. It was bought by “Fortidsminneforeningen” in 1877 and soon became a tourist destination. It is today a museum church and tourism has in recent years led to some weathering on the original church. Therefore in 1973 it was placed a protective wooden floor and the ball was blocked off. It has also been inserted plates of plastic in front of the inscriptions. Despite this, there has been some wearing out due to the many tourists who every year visit the stave church.

Useful Information

At the Borgund stave church it is an exciting visitor center with exhibits on the stave church’s influence on the religious life in the middle ages, on the Norwegian stave churches designed by Askim Lantto architects, and unique findings of viking-artifacts. Here is also a café, a souvenir shop and a nursery. Borgund is located on a historic route – midway between “Vindhellavegen” and “Sverrestigen” that offers great trekking possibilities. Start from the church and follow a great round trip of 1.5 hours.

On the walls of the church there is many runic inscriptions visible, almost as a portal to 1000 years in the past. One of the reads “Ave Maria”, and another one reads “Thor wrote these runes in the evening at the St. Olav’s Mass”, they are located at the west portal of the church.

It’s a nice trip to ride a bike or take a bus to Borgund Stave Church, but also avaliable by car.
More information below the picture..

 

Borgund Stave Church is the best preserved of Norwegian stave churches

 

The church is open to the public:

During the period 1. May to 30. September each year, usually between 10:00-17:00
In the period 11. June to 21. August, the opening hours extended to 8:00-20:00

Entrance fee:

Adults                                             NOK  80
Groups (min. 15), pensioners     NOK  70
Student/children over 5 yrs      NOK  60
Family	                                          NOK 190

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