Stave churches are curious buildings. They seem to try to mirror some viking age aesthetics, and in the process, produces their own visual premise. It has been suggested though, that the stave church is a translation of the architecture of bysantine basilikas – from stone to wood, with its closest architectual relations in Ireland. Maybe, maybe not. I happen to belong to the school of thought that every material has its nature, and working with it in proportion to the human body and surroundings… the stave churches are not entirely unlike some architecture I saw in Indonesia.
Many stave churches have remains of older churches and structures below them – this suggests a common view that the churches were buildt on top of the old sites of pagan worship in Norway. There seems to be little real direct evidence of this, but there seems to be some consensus that a number of stave churches are placed in settings near natural formations of pagan importance. And they seem to be made similar to pagan temples. As churches, they are dark, narrow, and gloomy inside. As a pagan temple they make perfect sense.
Passing Borgund: I have seen plenty of stave churces, but figured since I passed by Borgund, I might as well pop in to see this one. It is pretty famous. I do not have a religious bone in my entire body, but wacky medieval-ish architecture is amost always cool. I drove down the small road from the main highway, and the church is not immediately visible: it is hidden around a curve in the road.
I turned the corner, and it was like a black hole. It was dark, foreboding, and immediately I felt dread. It was like a church-shaped hole in the fabric of a pretty autumn day. I do not believe in premenitions or any such thing. But the feeling was overwhelming dread. My entire body pressing down on the car seat; my arms heavy as I turned the steering wheel. This is not work praising a loving god.
There you go. The atheist finally has an emotional reaction to a religious object.
Wanna see them? Here is a map.