As the oldest stave church in Norway, the beautiful and highly decorated Urnes Stave Church certainly has a wealth of history. Dating back to the 12th century, this wooden architectural masterpiece is well worth a visit during your trip to Norway.
Let’s learn more about the fascinating history of Urnes Stave Church, as well as all the most important information you’ll need for visiting this oldest stave church in Norway, including how to get there and opening times.
The History of Urnes Stave Church
The oldest of Norway’s 28 remaining medieval stave churches, Urnes Stave Church dates back to 1130. Three church buildings have actually stood on the site of Urnes Stave Church before the current church, with 100 years passing between the construction of the first and fourth churches on the site.
Bringing together elements of Romanesque architecture, Celtic art and the traditional style of medieval churches, Norway’s Urnes Stave Church is a prime example of the stave church construction, which was one of the most technologically-advanced in Europe at the time. Built in the 12th and 13th centuries, Urnes Stave Church was built entirely from wood using a classic basilica floor plan.
Urnes Stave Church, or Urnes Stavkirke in Norwegian, became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979 and has since become a popular site for visitors all over the world looking to experience some of Norway’s rich architectural and cultural history firsthand.
What Religion is Urnes Stave Church?
Combining Christian and Viking motifs, stave churches are Christian churches built using traditional Scandinavian wooden architecture. The first church to stand on the site was built during the period of Norway’s conversion to Christianity, with many features of the current church building depicting the country’s adoption of the Christian faith.
Where is Urnes Stave Church?
Located in the village of Ornes in Vestland county in southwestern Norway, Urnes Stave Church sits along the bank of Lustrafjord. The church’s location in a beautiful rural setting by the flowing waters of a fjord makes visiting Urnes Stave Church feel like stepping back in time.
The nearest town to Urnes Stave Church is Sogndal, which is around 22 kilometers away. To get from Sogndal to the church, you’ll need to take the Solvorn to Ornes car ferry across the fjord.
Exterior of Urnes Stave Church
Covered in fascinating carvings, Urnes Stave Church is one of the best-preserved stave churches in Norway. On the outside of the church, you can see excellent examples of Viking craftsmanship in the intricate wooden carvings and paneling.
You can view some of the oldest-surviving examples of ‘Urnes style’ on Urnes Stave Church: a form of Scandinavian Viking art involving intricate carvings of animals and swirly patterns.
Interior of Urnes Stave Church
Cylindrical columns and semi-circular arches characterize the interior of Urnes Stave Church, based on Romanesque and traditional medieval church architectural styles. Both Christian and Norse imagery feature in the interior of Urnes Stave Church, with sculptures of traditional Christian scenes and images from Norse mythology.
Inside Urnes Stave Church, you’ll be able to see the different adaptations the church has gone through over the centuries as religious practices changed and more of Norway adopted Christianity.
Opening Times of Urnes Stave Church
You can visit Urnes Stave Church between May and September each year. Opening times are usually between 10:30 and 17:45 each day. The exact opening dates and times can vary each year, so we recommend checking the up-to-date Urnes Stave Church opening times on the official website before your visit.
Important Points for Your Visit to Urnes Stave Church
Make sure you enjoy your visit to Urnes Stave Church as much as possible with our top tips and important points to remember for your visit:
- Get to the ferry ahead of time – As you’ll need to take the Solvorn to Ornes ferry to reach Urnes Stave Church from the nearest big town of Sogndal, we recommend getting to the ferry ahead of time. That’s because the ferry tends to fill up in advance, so it’s best to get there with time to spare to make sure you can fit on the ferry you want to travel on.
- Bring food and drinks along with you – Urnes Stave Church is located in a pretty remote area, surrounded by nature in a very small Norwegian village. While there is a coffee shop located close by the church that you could visit if you fancy a hot drink, it’s not always guaranteed to be open and there isn’t much choice food-wise in close proximity to the church. For these reasons, it’s a good idea to bring any food and drinks you’ll need during your visit along with you. Enjoying a picnic by the fjord just outside Urnes Stave Church is a wonderful thing to do after your visit!
- Pack your camera in a waterproof case – While visiting Urnes Stave Church, you’ll definitely want to capture some photos of this incredible church and its stunning natural surroundings. We recommend bringing along a spare battery and also packing any expensive electronics in a waterproof case because the weather in Norway can be very unpredictable!
- Check the weather forecast – Speaking of the weather, we also recommend checking the Norwegian weather forecast before heading out on your road trip to make sure driving conditions will be good and you can enjoy your visit to the max.
Visit Norway’s Incredible Stave Churches for Yourself!
Who’s ready to bag their own campervan rental in Norway and head out onto the beautiful open road to visit Norway’s historic stave churches for themselves, as well as explore the gorgeous natural wonders all over the country? If visiting Norway’s stave churches has always been on your travel bucket list, now’s the time to make that dream come true!