The Stave Church from Gol

The Stave Church from Gol is one of the main attractions at Norsk Folkemuseum (Norwegian Museum of Cultural History) in Oslo.

The old church in Gol, from approximately 1200, was due for replacement by a new church around 1880. The Society for the Preservation of Norwegian Ancient Monuments (Fortidsminneforeningen) bought the church and presented it to King Oscar II. The King paid for its re-erection at Bygdøy in 1884. In line with the general enthusiasm for the Middle Ages, the stave church from Gol was restored to its supposed original look from the 1200s. The inspiration for the missing medieval building parts was drawn from Borgund Stave Church.

  • Stave Church at Norsk Folkemuseum
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    Haakon Harriss, Norsk Folkemuseum

The lofty west and south portals are richly carved with entwined dragon and plant motifs. The west portal is original, while the south portal is a copy from 1884. In the dim light filtering in through the peepholes far above in the sidewalls carved heads can be glimpsed uppermost on the staves. 

In the Catholic times, the church was most likely decorated with colorful painted saints. There are numerous runic inscriptions and carvings dated to the early Middle Ages in the church. Most of the carvings are in the chancel and show animal figures, humans and geometric symbols. The runes on one of the staves in the nave can be read as “Kiss me, because I struggle”, and may refer to a saint’s figure once hung on the stave. 

After the Reformation in 1537, fixtures from the Catholic period were gradually removed and replaced. The galleries and pulpits usually found in post-Reformation church interiors were added to the church interior, but was not included in the rebuilding.  

A few examples of Lutheran church art, namely the wall paintings in the chancel and apse from 1652, have been preserved. The paintings were originally financed by the members of the congregation whose names are written on the wall of the chancel.