Stave Churches


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Stave Churches

  1. 1. Stave Churches The Wooden Worship Structures of Medieval Norway Becca Stone HON 2210.03 31 October 2008
  2. 2. Background <ul><li>Christianity gained influence in Norway in the tenth and eleventh centuries, and church building thus became more frequent. Missionaries brought over Christian ideas and customs, but Norwegian culture and heritage was not lost. Stave churches, or “stavkirke” are wooden churches with Romanesque and Gothic architectural influences, yet they are unique to Norway and surrounding Scandinavian areas. The Norwegian people utilized their natural resources, building the stave churches of wood from fir trees. Although the basic building plan is simple, the architects of medieval Norway began building higher and more elaborate churches. During the Middle Ages, around 1,000 stave churches were built, yet only about 30 remain today. </li></ul>Borgund
  3. 3. Basic Building Plan <ul><li>Two main types of stave churches existed. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Small building with separate chancel; no aisles; more common </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Larger building with aisles on all four sides surrounding raised center; extra foundational beams to support the central part of the church </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Most of the churches still remaining in Norway are of the larger style. </li></ul>
  4. 4. Basic Building Plan <ul><li>Stave churches were built on rectangular stone foundations to keep the wooden structure away from the wet soil, thus preventing decay. Wooden pillars, or staves, at each corner supported the weight of the walls and roof. The walls were made of vertical planks, and four horizontal beams lined the tops of the walls as the base for the roof. Stave church roofs were originally of a simple, peaked style, but Norwegian builders began elaborating on this simple structure and topping the churches with multiple tall roofs. </li></ul>
  5. 5. Basic Building Plan <ul><li>The stave churches were used as Christian places of worship, and the focus of the structure was therefore toward the altar. The worship space was typically divided into either one or three aisles. The churches were vertically spacious and extending toward heaven. Because these churches did not have any artificial light sources, they relied on natural illumination of the expansive worship space. </li></ul> Borgund
  6. 6. Basic Building Plan <ul><li>Stave churches were unique to other medieval church structures in that they were made almost entirely of wood. The presence of stone and metal was sparse, in contrast to typical church architecture. Stone was used for the foundation but was not implemented for other structural uses. Metal and wood typically made their only appearances as decoration on doors. </li></ul><ul><li>Wooden pins were used instead of nails, allowing more flexibility for swelling of the wood during wet seasons as well as elasticity of the structure during windy and stormy seasons. The rigidity caused by using metal as structural components would have been detrimental to these churches. The longevity of the stave churches can be attributed to the forgiving nature of the wooden architectural elements. </li></ul>
  7. 7. Above: Top & Bottom Right: Side view of beam construction Right: wood used in Borgund stave church Above: Borgund
  8. 8. Architectural Influences <ul><li>Viking ship structures: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The wooden ships built by the sea-faring Scandinavians influenced the building of the stave churches. This style of church architecture derived its use of wooden pins and support from the Viking ships, which also used wooden materials to maintain durability. The dragon heads that were found on the fronts of Viking longboats adorned the roofs of the stave churches, thus demonstrating the Scandinavian tradition that continued on in the stave churches of Norway. </li></ul></ul>
  9. 9. Architectural Influences <ul><li>Gothic: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Gothic influence in the stave churches can be seen in the distribution of weight, the use of butressing, and the lofty roof structure. There is some disagreement, however, as to whether Gothic architecture influenced Scandinavian architecture or vice versa. </li></ul></ul> Hopperstad
  10. 10. Architectural Influences <ul><li>Romanesque: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The influence of Romanesque basilicas is apparent in the architecture of the stave churches. Such evidence of this is the division into nave, choir, and apse. The use of support arches and columns can also be traced back to Romanesque basilicas. However, the steep roofs of the stave churches demonstrates the uniqueness of these churches from other classical churches. </li></ul></ul> Vaga Hopperstad
  11. 11. Decorative Elements <ul><li>Carvings: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Long before the Christianization of Norway, the Norwegian people were skilled woodcarvers. This artistry was applied to the ornamentation of the stave churches. In some cases, carvings would cover nearly the entire church. In these high-relief carvings, zoomorphic elements were incorporated. </li></ul></ul>Urnes
  12. 12. Decorative Elements <ul><li>Reminiscent of Celtic Christian zoomorphic knots and braids, the carvings of the stave churches depicted serpents entwined with other animals. These carvings merge together pagan and Christian artistry, thus demonstrating the convergence of the pagan Scandinavian culture and the influence of the Christian missionaries in Norway. </li></ul> Torpo
  13. 13. Norway’s Most Notable Stave Churches Borgund Location: Laerdal County: Sogn og Fjordane Built: about 1150 Architechtural style: sets of arches joined by cross braces
  14. 14. Norway’s Most Notable Stave Churches <ul><li>Urnes </li></ul><ul><li>Included in UNESCO’s World Heritage list in 1980 </li></ul><ul><li>Disctinctive carvings on north portal originate from older church </li></ul>Location: Luster County: Sogn og Fjordane Built: around 1130-1150 Architectural style: internal rows of freestanding posts connected by arches; comparable to stone basilica Images:
  15. 15. Norway’s Most Notable Stave Churches Hopperstad Location: Vic County: Sogn og Fjordane Built: around 1150-1200 Images:
  16. 16. Bibliography &quot;All Stave Churches in Norway - Part II.&quot; Thu Data Stock Photo. < http://www. thu .no/Gallery08. htm >. Calkins, Robert G. Medieval Architecture in Western Europe. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998. Donnelly, Marian C. Architecture in the Scandinavian Countries. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1992. Grodecki, Louis and Roar Hauglid. Norway: Paintings from the Stave Churches. Italy: New York Graphic Society, 1955. Hunter, Leslie. Scandinavian Churches; a Picture of the Development and Life of the Churches in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden. London: Faber and Faber, 1965. &quot;Introduction.&quot; Stave Church: Medieval Wooden Churches in Norway. 2004. < http://www. stavechurch .org/ >. Liden, Hans-Emil. “Stave Churches.” In Medieval Scandinavia: An Encyclopedia, ed. Phillip Pulsiano 609-610 . New York: Garland Publishing, 1993. &quot;Stave Church Architecture & The Stave Churches of Norway.&quot; Chapel in the Hills. < >. &quot;Stave Churches.&quot; Sognefjord - the Official Guide to Sognefjord. < http://www. sognefjord . no/Attractions/StaveChurches >.