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Urnes Stave church

Urnes stave church was entered on the List of World Heritage sites in 1979. Architecturally, as well as from the fine arts perspective, Urnes stave church is unique among the 28 stave churches that are still in existence in Norway.

Urnes was built during the second half of the 1100s and is one of the oldest and best preserved stave churches in Norway. It is an example of the highest standards of craftsmanship and contains beautiful wood carvings. The interior of the church is particularly rich in decoration. Urnes stave church was built in the Romanesque style and features arches built to rest upon columns or pillars as well as other construction methods that were developed in Europe during the 1100s. The features are fully developed in the stave church at Ulnes but incorporate techniques that reflect Norwegian craftsmanship. In the original construction there was a covered balcony around the entire building. However, as this was in such a bad condition it was pulled down in the 1700s. But a small section of the balcony still exists on the western side, like a porch in front of the entrance. The church contains remnants from an earlier church that was built on the same site. Some of the decorative and sculptural elements that are made in wood are of very high quality and exhibit an amalgam of Celtic, Old Norse and Romanesque artistic traditions. In addition, the church has been built in an area of most impressive natural scenic setting. At one time, Urnes stave church was a private church belonging to a powerful Urnes family.

Stave churches represent the most advanced type of wooden constructions, of their type, which were widespread in northern Europe from the stone-age until the middle ages. Of an estimated total number of 1,300 stave churches which were built in northern Europe, only a few remain and most of them are in Norway. The majority of Norwegian stave churches are to be found in south-eastern Norway and the Sogn district of West Norway.

In a European context, the Norwegian stave churches are unique. Stave churches are one of Norway’s major contributions to the history of international building techniques. The stave churches have been named stave churches in accordance with the fact that massive wooden stave supports are used in the construction of the walls. These supporting staves are placed in the corners of the church and other important connecting points. There are very few stave churches entered on UNESCOs List of world and cultural heritage. However, the European cathedrals and the Latin-American churches and monasteries of colonial times, are very well represented. The Society for the Preservation of Norwegian Ancient Monuments owns Urnes stave church.

World Heritage Sites in Norway


Norges Verdensarv
Haakon VIIs gate 9
0161 Oslo

Direktør, Liv Astrid Sverdrup

+47 47 03 90 51