Stave Churches in Norway: Reinli Stave Church

I’ve already written about Høre & Hedalen stave churches, but this will be my last (and shortest) post on Norwegian stave churches for a while. Just like the other two, Reinli stave church is also located in proximity to the main road (E16) that runs through Valdres, Norway. In the area called Valdres you’ll actually find 6 out of the remaining 28 stave churches in Norway. During the Middle Ages there was probably over 1000 stave churches in Norway and some believe it may have been as many as up to 2000 churches. 


In the middle of Reinli, with a nice view over the village, you’ll find Reinli stave church. In older documents the church’s name is “Reinlidar kirkja” and it is probably the last of three churches that have stood on the site. After the Christianization of Valdres in 1023 the old pagan gods hoof (Norse gods hoof) was removed and a new church erected in haste. It was obviously important to train the people in the teachings of the new faith.

Evidence indicates that the first church building soon became too small or worn down, and a new and improved stave church was quickly finished. This church seems to have burnt down early in the 1200s, judging by remains of burned wood in the aisle. The only remains left of the first church are graves. The current church building is therefore considered to be constructed after 1250 and is thus one of the youngest stave churches in Valdres. The church is mentioned for the first time in 1327. Of the coins found under the church floor, the oldest are from King Håkonson`s reign, 1217-1263.

Reinli stave church haven’t been remodeled much compared to many other stave churches. The church building is constructed with a single ship, and the chancel where the altar stands, is as wide as the rest of the church. Around the church there are galleries, which together with the choir was added around 1320. These passages give the woodwork in the church building excellent protection. The wall features a hatch for the leprous, which was used to let them confess and receive Holy Communion.In the south cloister, by the priest entrance, an inscription tells us who was behind the new build or reconstruction in 1326.

Here rests Sira Thord who made this a better church. Pater Noster.

During the Middle Ages the title Sira was being used for the clergy, so Thord was obviously the minister in Reinli during the early 1300’s. In the gallery floor below the inscription there are five iron rivets to show where Sira Thord was buried. The inscription refers to a grave under the floor close by, and the grave is marked by small pieces of iron which together form a cross.

The wall features a hatch for the leprous, which was used to let them confess and receive Holy Communion.

The wall features a hatch for the leprous, which was used to let them confess and receive Holy Communion.

Some of the inventory of the church includes fittings in wrought iron on the church door, a the baptismal font made of soapstone and a bell in the belfry – all from the Middle Ages and is thus probably from the previous stave church that stood there. The altarpiece is a medieval triptych, but it was painted in the 1890s and 1920s.

Reinli stave church is also the only church in Norway where all the 12 initiation crosses from the late Middle Ages have been preserved
These symbols were made by the bishop during the dedication of the church building. The symbolism behind the crosses were threefold: They would keep evil spirits away, they should show that the church belonged to Jesus Christ, and finally be a memory of his sufferings on the cross.

It is a parish church, but only used during summer. For the rest of the year, the chapel further down the road is used.

“Valdres – Norges Vakreste Eventyr” Valdres Trykkeri AS. ISBN: 978-82-996654-7-6

This menhir (or bauta as it's called in Norwegian) is raised for the memory of the villagers who gave their lives fighting for Norway 1808-14.

This menhir (or bauta as it’s called in Norwegian) is raised for the memory of the villagers who gave their lives fighting for Norway 1808-14.

And just for fun, here’s the google translation of the bauta:

in memory
about the
reindeer Linga
for the country

Belfry (bell tower) Reinli Stave Church.

Belfry (bell tower) Reinli Stave Church.

Detail from Reinli Stave Church.

Detail from Reinli Stave Church.

The winter chapel at Reinli.

The winter chapel at Reinli.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my series on Norwegian stave churches.


16 thoughts on “Stave Churches in Norway: Reinli Stave Church

  1. I think I shall call these Stave Church posts “Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Stave Churches but were Afraid to Ask!” Remember Woody Allen’s flick by a similar name? I couldn’t resist Cardinal. Margie

    • Thanks for the name suggestion Margie!
      As I told Jake in the previous post: Now I don’t have any more material available, so I’ll have to come up with something else to write about.
      Most of the other stave churches I haven’t had the opportunity to visit, and I probably won’t spend my hard earned cash to go visit them either (unless the Norwegian Ministry of turism can give me a sponsorship??),

      So, I predict that in the near future some more glutenfree recipes will appear, plus more on the history of tattoo, interspersed with weekly photo challenges and maybe some Oslo/Jerusalem related stuff.

    • Thanks for stopping by & commenting Uman. Would be nice to get the opportunity to see those Romanian churches some day.
      BTW: There’s more photos & info in the other posts on stave churches…

  2. I’m a sucker for landscape and gray clouds, love that last photo; but I found the photos very interesting with the detail on the Reinli Stave church, the wooden gargoyle looking carvings.

    • Me too! I find the detailed wood carvings from this (& other) stave churches interesting. The vikings incorporated their own traditions and legends into the new mythology that came from the Middle East.
      Nobody knows what the original function of this dragon was, but dragons are usually seen in the iconography of the stave churches as a symbol of the destruction of evil.
      The vikings depicted snakes with dragonheads, which opens for different interpretations (these are my suggestions):

        – Perhaps it’s the serpent that we know from the garden of Eden in the Genesis (Bereshit) of the judeo-christian mythology?
        – In the New Testament, the Devil takes the form of a red dragon with seven heads and ten horns, in his battle against Archangel Michael.
        – or could it be Midgarðsormr (Midgardsormen / the Midgard Serpent) from Norse mythology?

      Midgardsormen was thrown into the ocean, and there it has grown so big that it now surrounds Midgard (one of the nine worlds – the Earth where the humans live) and grasps his own tail. When he’ll let go, the world will end and we will experience Ragnarökr / Ragnarok (armageddon). Midgard literally means «the enclosured world in the middle». When Ragnarok comes the Midgardsormen will be defeated by Thor – the Protector of Mankind (Thor with the hammer).

      Also: in Norse mythology the dragon Nidhogg is gnawing on the roots of the world tree known as «Yggdrasill».

  3. Wow, great to see all these interesting stave churches. I always love to see old, very old churches, buildings, houses, architecture, etc. Thanks for sharing.

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