Nordic Christmas Traditions:The Oldest Stave Church in Norway (Still In Use Today)

Have you seen my hubby’s walk to Undredal? The easiest way to get to the village of Undredal (population 100) is walking the three miles from a goat farm over the mountains to the other side, to the village. It was an awesome hike and only two men (one was my hubby) and the guide, finished the hike in the pouring rain! But, it was so worth it! To get an idea of the scenery on the way, look HERE!

Today, I am continuing on with a post in Undredal and decided to link it with a Nordic Tradition, that is the stave church. You can’t hardly get any more Christmassy than a church!

Thanks to those Vikings and their success in boat construction and home building, their techniques and traditions of wood carvings fully developed with the stave churches. There are several types of stave churches (some are very fancy and ornate) but what they all have in common are the corner-posts or staves and a timber framework with wall planks standing on sills. Everything in the church is beautifully carved or painted and most original decorations combine Christian motifs and pre-Christian Viking themes with animals and dragons.

The Undredal Church was built as a stave church in 1147 and was called St Nicholas Chapel. The church now has white clapboard sidings and is the smallest stave church in Scandinavia in regular use. On our travels through Norway we have seen many churches from the outside, but few from within. Because most of Norway is soooooooooo remote and there are not enough clergy and the villages are so small, most churches, today, only have services once every four to six weeks. And, they are locked up tight when not in service too. So, imagine how thrilling it was for the two hikers to be allowed in the stave church and to have a villager there also, to answer questions! Made my hubby’s day!

Here is Undredal’s stave church. Note, the little shed front and shed back were added to the church much later, to expand it and the planks are newish and painted white!

Undredal, Norway,  Tiny Stave Church

The Undredal Church probably received its present appearance from a substantial restoration which was carried out in 1722.  However, in 1962, the church was internally restored and they discovered the ancient decorations after removing layers and layers of paint. More than three coats of heavy white paint were carefully washed off to discover medieval carvings and paintings, that had long been concealed! The white paint is most likely from the Protestants, when they came along after the reformation. They erased all of the Catholic culture from the churches. But, hidden underneath………..what treasure!

You can see from this photo that some folks from the village were working on the organ…   And, you can see how tiny the church is! See the round timber pole (staves) in the corners? And, the curve of the wood for the ceiling?  And, the curve of the ceiling? Just like making a Viking boat!

Undredal, Norway, Inside Tiny Stave Church

and closer up, you get an idea of the artwork………

Undredal, Norway, Inside Tiny Stave Church

and now for a photo without the men!

Undredal, Norway, Inside Tiny Stave Church

The pulpit is (new) dated 1696, and the brass candlesticks on the altar are from 1702!

Undredal, Norway, Inside Tiny Stave Church

The pulpit has lots of writing and carved and painted decoration on it……..

Undredal, Norway, Inside Tiny Stave Church

The villager answered their questions……

Undredal, Norway, Inside Tiny Stave Church

The bell is believed to be medieval, but the smaller chandeliers are newer……………

Undredal, Norway, Inside Tiny Stave Church
Undredal, Norway, Inside Tiny Stave Church
Undredal, Norway, Inside Tiny Stave Church

And then you see the medieval, five-headed, deer chandelier with an angel on top ……..a focal point in the church……..and I loved the pine cone at the bottom!

Undredal, Norway, Inside Tiny Stave Church

from front and back…….

Undredal, Norway, Inside Tiny Stave Church

The ceiling is painted with stars and the moon, humans and angels blowing horns…….

Undredal, Norway, Inside Tiny Stave Church
Undredal, Norway, Inside Tiny Stave Church
Undredal, Norway, Inside Tiny Stave Church

The walls are painted to look like a tapestry………

Undredal, Norway, Inside Tiny Stave Church
Undredal, Norway, Inside Tiny Stave Church

Someone in the village hand built and carved the case for the organ……there is no going to the big box store for anything here……..

Undredal, Norway, Inside Tiny Stave Church

And, like every church they pass the plate for collections………..

Undredal, Norway, Inside Tiny Stave Church

There is a plate for each side of the church……and a hook to hang them on.  That big jug….. was it for wine for communion or water for baptism? Or both?

Undredal, Norway, Inside Tiny Stave Church

The collection plates show a very distinctive, lean but shaggy, antlered, long tailed, lion on it! Since none of the folks had ever seen a lion, but wanted something exotic on their plates, this is what they imagined a lion would look like!

Undredal, Norway, Inside Tiny Stave Church

And, they have made a smaller replica of the re-modeled stave church too.

Undredal, Norway Inside Tiny Stave Church

I hope you are enjoying my Nordic Traditions series! I would love to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in this church. It would be a true blessing!  The Church in Undredal is small in size, but it is great in cultural treasure and well worth a visit!

10 Comments Add yours

  1. Lauren says:

    Wow- beautiful pictures and such a lovely remote church!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Marvelous! How exciting it must have been to uncover all that they did.

    janet

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, it must have been quite the find!

      Like

  3. Jo Shafer says:

    Such a lovely blending of culture and art. I’m impressed with the animal head carvings at the bottom of hanging light fixtures and tapestry designs on the wall. In fact, I shudder to think that the wall art could have been lost in cleaning off all that white-wash paint! Could the designs be stained onto the wood rather than painted? Of course, I realize that art restorers know exactly what they’re doing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was impressed with those deer too! They could have been a stain, I don’t know how strong their paint was!

      Like

  4. Love this church with its painted walls and ceilings, woodwork, and simple but elegant touches. Now I really want to visit Norway — for this and many other reasons!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can’t wait to go back to Norway! I am now studying Norwegian to get ready!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. How cool is that!!! I’d love to study a new language. Kudos to you for attempting it!!!

        Like

      2. The best way to try a new language is with Duolingo! It’s free and fabulous! I have studied Italian and French with great success…. but I love the Norwegian! It is soooooo much easier than French which I have studied for years! It’s at your own pace too!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Thanks for the recommendation! I’m going to look into it.

        Like

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