two storey log house norway
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Numedal Valley in Norway

Numedal Valley

medieval stabbur in norway

Since medieval times, one of the main routes Traders and Pilgrims used to traverse Norway between Oslo and Bergen, was via the Numedal Valley, which stretches from Kongsberg in the south, to Geilo and the Hardangervidda Plateau, in the North west.

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Hardangervidda

Due to this long history, Numedal has one of Norway’s most concentrated collections of medieval buildings and artefacts, comprising over 40 heritage timber buildings dating from the Middle Ages. www.visitmiddelalderdalen.no

norwegian stabbur

The Norwegian Stabbur

By necessity, Norwegians had to find an effective way to store food over a long harsh winter and designed a uniquely shaped log ‘Stabbur’, or food storage house, that would prevent food from spoiling, or being eaten by mice and rats.

In latter times however, the visitor to the Numedal Valley will find that most of these historic Log buildings have been converted into authentic and traditional guest lodgings.

numedal valley norway
Nordli farm Stabbur, where I spent a night

You can sleep the night in one of these beautiful Stabburs, some which contain walls and everyday objects that have been decorated with the traditional Norwegian Art known as Rosemaling, in a style peculiar to the Numedal Valley.

medieval buildings on norwegian farm
A medieval Stabbur in the Numedal Valley

The highest number of Stabburs of any Norwegian valley are located in Numedal. And if that is not enough medieval history for you, the Valley also is home to no less than four Stave churches.

Rollag Stave Church

The Rollag Stave church is one of the better known Stave Churches in Numedal, but as all are off the main highways, they are a little hard to find. ‘Rollag Stavkirken‘ is located a few kilometres north of the village Rollag, in the Numedal Valley. It was probably originally built in the second half of the 12th century, though not all of it is original.

Initially, the church has been a simple church with a rectangular nave. First mentioned in 1425, it was rebuilt around 1660 into a cruciform church. Around 1760, the church was extended to the west.

Early Rosemaling and Hanseatic Art

The walls of Rollag Stave Church are adorned with fruit and biblical motives, which were painted in 1683, and the forerunner to the more traditional forms of Rosemaling. This was following on from the reformation. The close ties with the Hanseatic countries is exemplified in the religious figures of Mary with child, which originated in the German city of Lubeck, around the 1500’s.

Rollag Stave Kirke

The baptismal font dates from the middle ages whilst the altar dates from 1670. The blue lattice like structure in the left of the above photo is known by the archaic term which translates as: Wife’s or Widow’s ‘cage.’

Shocking as it may seem, women were seen as property in medieval times and as such, if a married Priest passed away, the next Priest assigned to that Parish, would inherit not only the Church and its land, but the Widow and any children as well! Times have changed!

Forestwood Rosemaling
My logo for my art

This was a logo I painted and tweaked in a photo editor for my artwork. One of the reasons for visiting Norway in such depth was to study the Norwegian Rosemaling first hand, as inspiration for further artwork and fabric designs.

Forestwood is the name of my website and online shops.

Architecture

Værnes Church, Norway c 1085

Nidaros Domkirken
Nidaros Cathedral

One attraction that everyone comes to see in Trondheim, Norway, is Nidaros Cathedral and yet it is the nearby Værnes church in Storjdal that, for me, holds more fascination, at least in a historical sense.


Not only does the Værnes Church have a purpose-built ‘Weapons House,’ that dates back to Viking times, but  you get to see Viking age architecture in regular daily use and see some of Scandinavia’s earliest church frescoes.

Weapon house
The Weapon House

In the 11th Century, any self respecting, newly Christianized, Viking carried with them a range of knives, axes and other paraphernalia used in defence, and weapons such as these were banned from Church. When the Priest really wanted the new Christians to attend Church, he had to provide a purpose built structure to safely lock up any instruments of death. And so the Weapons House was built. Ten centuries on, I believe the ‘House,’ now accommodates nothing more deadly than a garden hoe or lawn cutter.   [Watch out for your toes].

Photo credit Spottinghistory.com

The interior of the church takes the visitor straight back to the 11th Century and is every bit as unique as the Weapon House. The roof trusses, pictured below, span 11 metres and are completely original. This is Viking carpentry at its finest and it is the only original roof of its type, still in existence. Notably, the trusses were used as a design template in reconstructing the roof of Nidaros cathedral and Håkonshall in Bergen.

Værnes kirke, Stordal, Norway
Værnes Church at Stjørdal dates back to 1085 AD and is the oldest church in Norway.

What you see above you, at Værnes, is what a Viking saw ten centuries ago.

A raised and carved chair (c 1685), see above, was constructed as the private pew of General Von Schultz, the local Squire. It makes me slightly recoil to tell you this but, the wooden lattice ‘cage’ below was for the wives to sit, ( either Von Schultz or the Pastor’s wife. It is embarrassingly even referred to as a ‘wife’s cage.’ Awful, I know, but that is history.

Detail in the carving

Faces carved into the interior of this elevated chair are thought to depict the face of Von Schultz, but no one is quite sure of that. To me, some of them more resembled a gargoyle or the “north wind.”

Vaernes kirke
Frescoes on the walls of the church in Stjørdal

The wall mural  pre-dates the carved pulpit and is also original. Echoes of a world now past.

The significance of this fresco is lost in time

A fresco on the wall that looks like a hood from a pulpit remains a mystery to historians. The meaning and significance of this symbol has been lost.

Threatened by the Nazis during the war years, with their intensive infrastructure plans for a military base and airport, at Trondheim, Værnes Church survived and is still used for church services today. In fact, the church is so popular for baptisms and weddings, it is booked out many months and sometimes, years in advance.

Trondheim Værnes
Værnes Kirke – Just outside Trondheim airport

Make a small detour from Værnes Lufthavn, (Trondheim airport), to Stjørdal, in Norway and you can walk the path of history.

Entrance to the church

Værnes Kirke is an important link to the past and something to ponder about. Linking to Jo’s Monday Walks – a tad earlier