World Heritage #0058 – Urnes Stave Church

Last modified 27.03.2022 | Published 10.08.2012Norway, Norway's Heritage Sites, World Heritage Sites

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The Urnes stave church is one of several stave churches of Norway. We find them in the most remote locations of the country, and they are splendid places to visit.

The UNESCO World Heritage List includes more than a thousand properties with outstanding universal value. They are all part of the world’s cultural and natural heritage.


Official facts

  • Country: Norway
  • Date of Inscription: 1979
  • Category: Cultural site

UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre’s short description of site no. 58:

“The wooden church of Urnes (the stavkirke) stands in the natural setting of Sogn og Fjordane. It was built in the 12th and 13th centuries and is an outstanding example of traditional Scandinavian wooden architecture. It brings together traces of Celtic art, Viking traditions and Romanesque spatial structures.”


My visit

A stave (stav in Norwegian) is a wooden post. This is how Wikipedia describes the building technique:“A stave church is a medieval wooden church with a post and beam construction related to timber framing. The wall frames are filled with vertical planks. The load-bearing posts (stafr in Old Norse, stav in Norwegian) have lent their name to the building technique. Related church types are post churches and churches with palisade walls.”

Although this building technique was not unique to Norway, it is almost only in Norway we find remains of it. On the other hand only 28 churches remain of the more than a thousand built in the final years of the Viking era. Many of the remaining ones bear little or no resemblence to the kind, and there are also different types of stave churches.

Urnes is one of the oldest, finest and rarest of its kind. The ornamentation on the northern wall, originally adorning a doorway, is particularly beautiful. It depicts a fight between good and evil, and has symbolic links to both Christian and Norse mythology.

Equally beautiful, but of another kind, is the church’s location on a hill over the Lustrafjord with high mountains in the background. A archetypical view of Norway in every aspect.

Read about Norwegian stave churches. 

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