Stave Churches – The Story of a Stav

by Sara Cais Soler and Léa Guillot



A stave church is a Norwegian wooden medieval church named after the timber columns which are the main element of the structure : the stav.

Those churches were built mainly between 1030 and 1350, when Christianity arrived in Norway. The master builders were inspired by European churches for their shape but used the common material in Norway: wood. They used the skills they had acquired building timber ships and farms to create the stave churches. Soon they improved their methods to make them bigger, taller and more beautiful with fine details and carvings.

The stav was the main element in the building of the church, the wooden piece with the largest section. This was a unique technique developed in Scandinavia. Their importance can be accounted with an ancient law stating that “the posts were a formal qualification for the validity of consecration.”

Here is  the history of one stav illustrated, from the tree to the church.

The Norwegian Stave Churches. Anker, Leif; ARFO, Oslo 2005
Stav og laft i Norge, Early Wooden Architecture in Norway. Bugge, Gunnar and Norberg-Schulz, Christian; Norsk arkitekturforl., Oslo 1969.
Norwegian wood : a tradition of building. Jolan, Jerri; Rizzoli, New York  1990.
Norske stavkirker. Hauglid, Roar; Dreyer, Oslo 1976.
Lecture by Kolbjørn Nesje Nybø.