15 July 2015

Research: Norway 2 - Hopperstad Stave Church

While on the cruise of the Norwegian fjords we took a single excursion from Vik to Flam. There was no other way I'd be able to visit the Hopperstad Stavkyrkje. Believe me, photographs don't do it justice, especially ours.

Hopperstad Stave Church set on a hill overlooking Vik on the Sognefjord

It dates from the early 12th century, only around 140 years after Christianity had been accepted as the nation's religion - which in reality means that both Christianity and Paganism would have been followed, the Old Norse pantheon led by Allfather not having yet been consigned to folklore - hence the carved dragonheads acting as 'protection'.

Carved roof detail of the Hopperstad Stave Church

Inside, it was darker than I imagined, the roundel windows set in the upper roof the only source of light, and we had to allow a good amount of time for our sight to adjust. The camera made it, more or less.

Detail of the load-bearing staves

If this sort of construction was being used in the 1100s, it was a skill well honed over decades if not centuries, and I can well imagine the lofty halls of Jarls sharing the same basic structure. Very much a touch of The Lord of the Rings.

Intricate carving and canopy paintings

Few stave churches survive. Many were destroyed at the Church's direction to be replaced by a more acceptable 'reformist' type now seen throughout Norway. Hopperstad was saved because it was out of the way and, after plague severely reduced the local population, most people had moved down to Vik by the fjord. It was a forward thinking conservationist in the 1880s, Peter Blix, who became the power behind its restoration. More information can be found HERE.

In the area, but not on our itinerary, were the Hove Steinkyrkje, the first church in the region to be built of stone, which has a beautiful painted interior, and the Urnes Stavkyrkje which has UNESCO World Heritage status.

Other posts in the series:
Norway 1: In the Wake of the Vikings - landscapes of the fjords
Norway 3: Bergen and the Hanseatic League.
Norway 4: Viking Ships Not From Norway

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