Hedal Stave Church

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Hedalen Stave Church
Hedalen stavkyrkje
StatusAutomatically protected
Year builtc. 1160

Hedalen Stave Church (Norwegian: Hedalen stavkyrkje) is a stave church located at the settlement of Hedalen in the municipality of Sør-Aurdal in Innlandet, Norway.[1]


Hedalen Stavkyrkje. Sør-Aurdal

The first reference to the church is in 1327. The original church was a much smaller single nave church built second half of the 12th century. The west entrance remains from the original church. The front portal is one of the oldest and most richly ornamented in the country. It takes the form of three winged dragons, one on each side of the arch and pilasters of the entrance and one above, all elaborately intertwined in a tendril and leaf pattern.[2]

The remodelling and expansion of original building into a cruciform church is believed to have been completed in 1699, although some sources claim 1738. Restoration work was done during 1902 under direction of architect Carl Berner (1877–1943). During the restoration work, the previous sacristy was replaced with a new choir, and the new parts were enclosed in an ambulatory. This was a small reconstruction to add a new ridge turret (Norwegian: takrytter).[3][4]


Within the church there is also a reliquary, made of wood in the shape of a miniature church (called a chasse) with gilt-brass mountings and with scenes from the Bible[5] and the martyrdom of Thomas Becket.[6] Like the stave churches themselves the reliquary is ornamented with dragon-heads on its gables, a feature which several Norwegian medieval reliquaries share and which might have been originally inspired by similar dragon-heads on the silver gilt reliquary of St. Olav on the enshrined on the high altar of the Nidaros Cathedral.[7][8] This reliquary was the principal source of inspiration for coat of arms of Sør-Aurdal. Another source of inspiration for this coat of arms was the Reinli stave church. Also preserved in the church is the wooden litter for bearing this reliquary in processions, as well as a brass censer with Limoges enamel and a wooden pax-board.[9][10]

The soapstone baptismal font, with its conical wooden lid, is of gothic style and is still in use. On a special mount on the wall of the church is a statue of the Virgin Mary, crowned and dressed in a golden robe lined with vair and holding the similarly crowned and robed Christ Child enthroned on her lap. The statue dates from the early 13th century as does the wooden tabernacle in the form of a church. Hedal church was originally dedicated to the Virgin Mary and this statue originally stood on the principal altar in the apse in front of a polytych painted with scenes of her life, which could be closed over it during times of fasting. This polytych was repainted in the Baroque period and now forms the altarpiece, in front of which is displayed a medieval crucifix of Christ on the cross in the shape of a stylized tree of life. Both the statue of the Virgin and Child and the crucifix are among the more beautiful works of medieval art to survive from the Norwegian Middle Ages.[11]

The Virgin and Child statue was restored by the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History in 1990. After much discussion over whether it should remain in its collection, it is back in the church placed on a special mount. There was also a replica made at the same time as its restoration. It is placed on display if weather conditions makes the original's safe storage necessary.[12]


References and Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ "Hedalen stave church". valdres.no. Retrieved 1 October 2017.
  2. ^ Jørgen H. Jensenius. "Hedalen stavkirke". Stavkirke.info. Retrieved 1 October 2017.
  3. ^ Trond Marinus Indahl. "Carl Berner, arkitekt". Norsk kunstnerleksikon. Retrieved 1 October 2017.
  4. ^ "Hedalen stavkirke i Valdres". Valdres.no. Retrieved 1 October 2017.
  5. ^ I.e., Christ in Glory, his betrayal and crucifixion and the women at his tomb and the three kings presenting their gifts to the Virgin and Child
  6. ^ Many such reliquaries were made in western Europe from 1170 to 1220 when the martyred archbishop's cult was at its height.
  7. ^ This reliquary is considered to be the best of its type to survive and replicas of it are displayed in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, in the Museums of Cultural History and of Art, Architecture and Design in Oslo and in the Cultural History Collection of the Bergen Museum in Bergen.
  8. ^ Further evidence of the popularity of the cult of Thomas Becket in Valdres might be seen from the St. Thomas Church in the Filefjell mountain pass between Valdres and Sogn. The chasse from this church is in the Bergen Museum, but is in a more ruinous condition than the chasse in Hedalen. This chasse also has dragonheads and has five arches piecing its lower side, a feature it shares with the representation of a chasse in the Sør-Aurdal coat of arms.
  9. ^ "Hedalen stave church". hedalen.no. Retrieved 1 October 2017.
  10. ^ "Hedalen stavkirke". Den norske kirke. Retrieved 1 October 2017.
  11. ^ Sigrid Christie, Ola Storsletten, Anne Marta Hoff. "Hedalen kirke". Norges Kirker. Retrieved 1 October 2017.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  12. ^ "Hedalen stavkirke". Riksantikvaren. 18 July 2016. Archived from the original on 23 February 2014. Retrieved 1 October 2017.

Other sources[edit]

  • Leif Anker (2005) The Norwegian Stave Churches (Oslo: Arfo Forlag) ISBN 978-8291399294
  • Martin Blindheim (1998) Painted Wooden Sculpture in Norway c. 1100-1250 (Oslo: Aschehoug AS) ISBN 978-8200376811

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 60°37′21″N 9°41′27″E / 60.62250°N 9.69083°E / 60.62250; 9.69083