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The church is dendrochronologically dated to 1212. When the city built a new church around 1880, it was decided to demolish the old stave church. It was saved from destruction by the Society for the Preservation of Ancient Norwegian Monuments, which bought the materials in order to re-erect the church elsewhere. It was acquired by King Oscar II, who financed its relocation and restoration as the central building of his private open-air museum near Oslo. The restoration, overseen by architect Waldemar Hansteen, was completed in 1885. In 1907, the early open-air museum, the world's first, was merged with the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History, which now manages the stave church. The church, however, is still nominally the property of the reigning monarch.
In the 1980s, a modern replica has been erected in Gol as a tourist attraction in a theme park in central Gol. This replica is located some distance from the original site of the mediaeval church. There is also a replica in the Scandinavian Heritage Park in Minot, North Dakota, United States.