Roldal Stave Church - History and Facts | History Hit

Roldal Stave Church

Roldal, Hordaland, Norway

Roldal Stave Church is a picturesque wooden church dating back to around 1250.

Peta Stamper

07 Apr 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Roldal Stave Church

Roldal Stave Church – Roldal Stavkyrkje – is a picturesque wooden church in Vestland, Norway, and dates back to around 1250 AD. Today, visitors still flock to Roldal Stave Church, Norway’s only church of this kind to act as a working church.

Roldal Stave Church history

Roldal Stave Church was constructed between 1200 and 1250 AD, a church built with timber framing whereby the pine posts were called ‘stafr’ in Old Norse. In this early period, Norway’s land became concentrated into the hands of the king, aristocracy and Church with a percentage of farmers’ earnings going to the Church.

Stave churches were the predominant design in Norway despite the Catholic Church preferring stone buildings, and all pre-Reformation churches in Norway were built in the style.

During the middle ages, pilgrims travelled in great numbers to the Roldal Stave Church to see the wondrous crucifix reported to have healing powers and dating back to the church’s foundation. As pilgrimages continued until 1835, longer than elsewhere in Norway, the small village of Roldal became quite prosperous. By the 17th century the walls were lined with richly coloured paintings.

The church was reconstructed during the 19th century, and in 1844 an investigation in to how the church was built was started. Controversy about whether or not Roldal was a stave church or post church erupted: a post church, an earlier design, was designed with the corner posts dug into the earth, rather than mounted on a frame.

Roldal Stave Church today

The Roldal Stave Church remains in remarkable condition, and mass is still held in the church. For those keen to see more of the Norwegian landscape, there are still several pilgrim trails connected to the church. During the summer season, be sure to take a guided tour around the wooden church, decorated with imitation fabric paintings and beautiful carved pews.

On a misty day, surrounded by mountains and low-lying clouds, it is easy to be transported back to medieval Norway. If you’re visiting on July 6th, look out for the church’s legendary ‘sweating’, an annual occurrence on ‘Olsok’ – Norway’s national day of celebration.

Getting to Roldal Stave Church

Roldal Stave Church in Roldal is located just off the E134 main road, down Kyrkjevegen road. Roldal is a 3 and a half hour drive from Bergen or 4 and a half hours from Oslo. If using public transport, catch the local bus line 863 or the intercity bus NW180 from Oslo to the Bruleitet stop, an 8 minute walk to the church.

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