Urnes Stave Church: Last Standing Viking Style Church

Viking Urnes Stave Church

Viking art style went through six phases from Oseberg “the gripping beasts” to the final Urnes style. Each phase has a fantastic artifact as a witness. The last Viking art style – Urnes – is somewhat special because it is a hinge between the Viking and the Christian dominant period. This blog post is all about the Urnes Stave Church the last witness to Viking last style.

History of the church

The Urnes Stave Church came into being around the 12th century (~1130AD) by which time the Viking glory was to come to end. Until now, it still stands tall in Sognefjord to the west of Norway. The scholars believe that the Urnes Stave Church is the last survivor of this Viking art style. Other places featuring the Urnes style could not survive either the test of time or war and human exploitation.

Inside the Viking Urnes Church in Norway
Inside the stave church

Around the early of the 11th century, there was an incredible rise in Christianity in Scandinavia. And what had to come finally did come. The Christian leaders ordered to build churchs on the land of the Vikings to declare their dominance. Yet, at this time, not all Vikings submitted to the cross, they still wanted to build something that reflected their ancestral path. For example, many churches at that time had the dragon heads on the roofs just like the Viking ships.

Urnes Stave Church – Timber construction

According to the scholars, thanks to the great shipbuilding techniques, the Vikings managed to build such excellent Urnes Stave Church.

This stave church was erected with the simple post and lintel design. But instead single-room house, it had more rooms which marked a trait different from Viking house style. By the time of the church construction, the dragon head was removed from the church building style. That’s why we cannot see any dragon protruding from the Viking Urnes Stave Church’s roofs.

Famous intertwining patterns of the Urnes stave church
Famous intertwining patterns of the Urnes stave church

Last sight of Norse mythology

The most important figure from Norse mythology appeared vividly in the Urnes Stave Church – Yggdrasil. In Norse mythology, Yggdrasil was the Great Ash Tree that held Nine Worlds on their branches. It sheltered Lif and Lifsandir when Ragnarok the Doom of Gods befell.

Yggdrasil Great Tree of Life
Yggdrasil Great Tree of Life in Norse mythology

And the patterns of intertwining trees and leaves on the walls of Urnes Stave Church reflected Yggdrasil the Great Tree. The animals on the Urnes style showed their heads in profile. They looker slimmer and had more loops.

After all, what the church reflected is not only the end of the Viking glory but also their new journey into Christianity. We all agree that if it has beginning, it will has an ending. We accept it as that’s way things are supposed to be. We cherish the last vestige of the Vikings inside the Viking Christian church and always view it as something we should be proud of.

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