March 7, 2014

1026 NORWAY (Sogn og Fjordane) - Urnes Stave Church (UNESCO WHS)

A stave church is a medieval wooden Christian church, named so due to its structure of poles and lintels, the load-bearing posts being called stafr in Old Norse and stav in Norwegian. Once common all over northwestern Europe (probably more than 1,300 were only in Norway), until today survived very few, most of them in Norway. Actually, only two medieval stave churches remained outside Norway: one in Sweden (Hedared), and one in Poland (Karpacz - relocated in 1842 from Norway). Of the 28 stave churches in Norway, one was listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO (in 1979): Urnes Stave Church, probably the oldest of its kind, built around 1130.

Erected at Urnes, or Ornes, a village located on a small peninsula that juts out into the Lustrafjorden, the innermost part of the Sognefjorden, the largest fjord in Norway, the building provides a link between Christian Romanesque structures and the architecture and artforms of the Viking Age, with typical animal-ornamentation, the so-called Urnes style of animal-art. Archaeological investigations have discovered the remains of one, or possibly two, churches on the site prior to the current building. Over the centuries, interventions have been carried out to adapt the church to religious and practical needs, but they don't affect the originality of the building. It is no longer a parish church, but is still in use for some christenings and weddings, and the medieval cemetery which surround the building is also in use for a few local families.

The north portal and other details of the north wall of the present church, as well as the wall planks of the gables, are decorated in the classic Urnes-style. They are probably relics from one of the earlier churches, and even it has been speculated that it may originally have been the main portal, facing west. It was built with a rectangular nave and a narrower choir, both raised central spaces. The choir was extended to the east in the 17th century, but this addition was later removed. The drawing by Johan Christian Dahl depicts this, as well as the deteriorated state of the church at that time. During the 20th century the church underwent a restoration, and the richly decorated wall planks were covered to stop further deterioration. A large number of medieval constructive elements remain in situ: ground beams (grunnstokker), sills (sviller), corner posts (hjørnestolper), wall planks (veggtiler) and aisle wall plates (stavlægjer). The construction of the raised central area with staves, strings and cross braces, and the roof itself, also date from medieval times.

About the stamps
The stamp is part of the large series Wildlife in Norway, designed by Inger Sandved Anfinsen and issued in successive sets since 2006:
29.03.2006 Lynx / Lynx lynx (6.50 NOK)
29.03.2006 Capercailzie / Teatrao urogallus (8.50 NOK)
29.03.2006 Golden eagle / Aquila chrysaetos (10.00 NOK)
29.03.2006 Arctic fox / Alopex lagopus (10.50 NOK)
21.02.2007 European hedgehog / Erinaceus europaeus (12.00 NOK)
21.02.2007 Red squirrel / Sciurrus vulgaris (22.00 NOK)
21.02.2008 Elk / Alces alces (11.00 NOK)
21.02.2008 Bear / Ursus arctos arctos (14.00 NOK) - it's on the postcard
02.01.2009 Roe deer / Capreolus capreolus (11.50 NOK)
02.01.2009 Wild reindeer / Rangifer tarandus (15.50 NOK)
02.01.2009 Grouse / Lagopus lagopus (25.00 NOK)
02.01.2010 Otter / Lutra lutra (15.00 NOK)
02.01.2010 Lemming / Lemmus lemmus (16.00 NOK)
02.01.2010 Norwegian Wolverine / Gulo gulo (26.00 NOK)
03.01.2011 Polar Bear / Ursus maritimus (17.00 NOK)
03.01.2011 Muskox / Ovibos moschatus (27.00 NOK)
02.01.2014 Red deer / Cervus elaphus (19.00 NOK)
02.01.2014 European badger / Meles meles (35.00 NOK)

Urnes Stave Church - Wikipedia
Urnes Stave Church - UNESCO official website

Sender: Jo Vermund Heggland (direct swap)
Sent from Stavanger (Rogaland / Norway), on 26.03.2013

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