Since its completion in 1216, Gol Stave Church has been a symbol and prime example of Norwegian architectural pride. For centuries this church was the only one of its kind, the only one of this form, but that has changed and today the historic church has copies across the globe.
In the years following its completion Gol Stave Church was a key part of the local community. As the primary church of the area, it was an important gathering point for the locals. As the population grew the church became too small to fit all locals, so in 1880 it was decided that Gol would build a new and bigger church, and the original stave church was to be demolished and replaced. The Society for the Preservation of Ancient Norwegian Monuments was not happy with this decision and quickly decided to buy the materials in order to re-erect the iconic church elsewhere. In 1881 King Oscar II of Norway and Sweden financed the relocation of Gol Stave Church to make it a part of his collection of characteristic older Norwegian buildings. Today the original Stave Church and the rest of the king’s collection is located in The Norwegian Museum of Cultural History in Oslo.
The Gol locals thought that the move of the church was a tragic incident, a waiver of their culture, and a loss of an old pride. Therefore, just a century after the move of Gol Stave Church the local society decided to build a replica of the original church that once prided their home town. In 1994, 113 years after the move of the original, New Gol Stave Church was inaugurated and is now honouring the original that once was there.
The American Twin
In addition to Norwegian copy, Gol Stave Church has been copied across the Atlantic as well. In the autumn of 2001, the Scandinavian Heritage Association in North Dakota unveiled the Gol Stave Church Museum, an exact full-size replica of the historic Gol Stave Church in Oslo. The replica was built as a memorial for the pioneer immigrants that moved from Scandinavia seeking the American dream in the American Northwest. Besides the North Dakotan one, the historic stave church has yet another copy in The States. Although it is not an exact copy, the stave church in the Norway Pavilion in Disney World, Orlando is heavily inspired by the designs of the famous church.
A Tribute to God
At first, the church might look big, but the majority of the building is purely decorative. Stave churches were built as a grand tribute to God, a majestic piece of architecture reflecting God’s power. Therefore form was sometimes prioritized over function, making room for fewer visitors than other churches. The church’s nave, the central part where people are seated is quite small. When everyone is seated the church only fits about 30 people comfortably.
Although stave churches are spread across Scandinavia and parts of north-western Europe, the Norwegian ones are the most famous and influential, and the majority of stave churches left are located in Norway, therefore stave churches are commonly associated with Norwegian architectural history.
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