Urnes stave church was built in the 1130’s A.D. and is among the oldest of the preserved stave churches. The church is an example of excellent craftsmanship and well executed wood work. Urnes stave church was inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 1979.
A central piece of Norwegian art and history
Urnes Stave Church was most likely built as a private church for the rich and powerful Ornes family, which played a leading role on the side of Baglerne during the civil wars. Following the peace with Håkon Håkonson in 1217, they were the King’s trusted men.
The builders of the church were well acquainted with international trends in architecture, and translated these from stone to wood. Both the exceptional quality and wealth displayed in the décor at Urnes demonstrates the wealth and the power of the builders.
Traces of earlier churches
The style of ornamentation of the church is interesting, and is dated to the period between 1050-1100 A.D. This indicates that much of the ornamentation was from an earlier church. It is assumed that the earlier church was demolished around the middle of the 12th century and the material was re-used in the standing church.
The ground under the church indicates that there must have been a building earlier, which most likely was built during the time when Christianity was introduced to Norway.