Hedalen Stave Church – Revisit

This summer a tattoo artist friend of mine from New Zealand came for a visit. She spent a week here and since Oslo is a small city it only takes a few days to see everything this city has to offer, so we decided to go hiking in Jotunheimen for couple of days. On the way there we made a stop at Hedalen Stave Church. 

Hedalen Stave Church

Hedalen Stave Church

After the Christianization of Valdres the Norse god hoof in Hedalen was replaced with a single nave stave church. In 1699 the stave church developed into a cruciform church. The oldest part of the church is probably from 1160 and is thus among the oldest wooden buildings in Norway, and probably the oldest surviving building in Valdres. Coins from King Sverre`s era (1177-1202) have been found under the floor. After 850 years of age the stave church remains solid and it’s still the center of the village, still in use as a regular parish church.


Deep grooves in the outer walls tells us the story about winter storms, blazing sunshine and countless layers of sticky tar.

The term stave derives from the construction of vertical corner posts. The west-facing portal features dragon and vine decorations from the late 1100s. These dragons symbolise the evil forces you leave behind before you enter the place of worship.

The Legend

According to an old legend the stave church was left abandoned in the pine forest after the Black Death. One day a hunter saw a capercaillie (grouse) up in a pine tree. He gently stretched his bow and released the arrow. Unfortunately (?) the arrow whizzed right past the grouse and disappeared into the forest. Suddenly the arrow hit metal and the wood was filled with the magical sound of bells. Horrified the hunter began to walk carefully towards the sound and there, among the pine trees, he saw the church building.

“This must be magic,” the hunter thought and threw his fire iron (flint and steel) over the roof to break the spell. But the church did not disappear. The hunter hesitantly went towards the door opening and peeked inside. Right beside the altar, he found a sleeping bear that he killed (I would assume that the bear would have been woken by the church bells, but obviously this bear was an extremely heavy sleeper). The bear skin was hung in the sacristy and the farm where the fire iron struck down, is still called “Ildjarnstad” (fire iron place).

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


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