Monday, March 24, 2008

Stave Churches

My most recent personal research project has been on the stave churches of Norway. While I was working for the slide library in the art history department at GMU, I came across photos of stave churches and was struck by the beauty and intricacy of their carved decorations (photo at right taken by Nina Aldin Thune). Their name is derived from the Old Norse stafr, which indicates the load-bearing posts making up the churches' post-and-beam construction.

These remarkable buildings tend to resemble ships, and some can by incredibly elaborate. The photo at the left shows Gol Stave Church, originally built in 1200, then moved to Oslo in 1885. The oldest church is believed to be the Urnes Stave Church, dated to approximately 1150. Urnes is listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, and thus was visited by Els Slots in his quest to see all of the sites on that list. He wrote about it on the blog where he catalogs these trips, the World Heritage Site.

I find myself fascinated by the unusual construction and appearance of these churches, and I'd love to see more examples of their decorative woodwork. I've found, however, that there are very few sources for information in print in English. An Amazon search for "stave churches" yields a disappointing selection of books, all of which are out of print. Personally, I prefer books when I'm trying to learn everything I can about a subject, as I like to actually have my hands on something, plus books tend to have higher-quality images (in my experience).

For more information, I suggest checking out these websites:
I might just have to hit the library for books, however.

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