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Directorate for Cultural Heritage

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The Stave Church Preservation Programme

Hopperstad stave church in Sogn og Fjordane County. Photo: Jiri Havran / Riksantikvaren


In 2001, the Directorate for Cultural Heritage in Norway initiated a programme to restore all the stave churches in the country. The project was completed in 2015.

Why is it important to take care of the stave churches?

The 28 stave churches are Norway’s most important contribution to world architecture and the oldest preserved wooden buildings in the country. They are unique in a European context and represent our foremost contribution to international construction history.

The stave churches are not only valuable as buildings. They also form valuable elements in the cultural landscape, and contribute to illustrating where the major traffic arteries have been routed, and how the landscape has previously been used. It is therefore vital that the area surrounding the churches are not deconstructed or changed.

What is the Stave Church Preservation Programme?

The poor condition of the stave churches and the challenges faced by the Directorate for Cultural Heritage, initiated the restoration project in 2001.

The aim of the Stave Church Preservation Programme is that the restoration and preservation of the churches should lead to more visits, and show the cultural and historical values that they represent. The Directorate for Cultural Heritage therefore wants to open the construction sites to the public, so that schools and museums can make use of the information from the churches, in their own work.

There is also a desire to create positive effects, by creating greater local activity through traditional means of using materials and resources. Both the stave churches and their maintenance should in this way contribute to developing the local economy.

To carry out the Stave Church Preservation Programme, it is necessary to build further knowledge about what has already been known in the course of the last few years on the usage of traditional handicrafts, and “new” knowledge concerning the use of different traditional materials.

The Stave Church Preservation Programme was completed in 2015.