In Norway, June of 2022.
Where are Kevin and Ruth now? Manotick (Ottawa), Ontario. Canada.

Where are Kevin and Ruth going next? Greenwich, Nova Scotia, Canada on October 3rd.

Saturday, June 25, 2022

The amazing 900 year old wooden stave church of Urnes, Norway

A stave church is a type of medieval wooden church that used to be widespread throughout Europe. Most of them were built between the years 800 to 1400. But due to a variety of reasons including poor original building techniques very few remain in existence today.

And the vast majority of the remaining stave churches are located in Norway. In fact, they think there used to be as many as 1,000 of them spread across the country, but now only 28 remain.

And they aren't cheap to visit, so we chose the oldest one which was also coincidentally not much of a detour off our planned route anyhow... the Urnes Stave Church. But to get there, we had to take two ferries.

The first ferry was one of the major highway traffic ferries. We had signed up for an electronic ferry pass which we had to submit a deposit of 3,000 kr ($393 CAD, $305 USD). This was the first time we have had to use it, although there will be many more over the next month. When you use a ferry, the cost of the trip is charged against your deposit account. It was a bit difficult to get set up, but it's worthwhile... each trip you save 40% to 50% of the cost had we not set it up. 

Arriving at the ferry port.

Boarding the ferry.

As with most ferries, the charge is based on the length of your vehicle. Max is 5.9 meters, and the limit for the cheapest charge is 6.0 meters. The next category is between 6.01 meters and 8 meters. Measuring is all done electronically. We received the email invoice this morning, and sure enough Max was charged in the second category... because of our bicycles! I wasn't sure if they would measure bumper to bumper, but apparently not! Now we know that we have to remove the bicycles and put them inside in order to get the cheaper fare.

On the ferry.

Notice that it was another blue sky day. And in fact, it's the warmest day we've had since last fall! Sunshine and 27C (81F). It was a shorts and t-shirt day!

Scenery along the way.

We arrived at the village of Solvorn where we were going to have to take a much smaller ferry to the much smaller village of Ornes. I had read that we could park at the ferry and just go as foot passengers across to Ornes, and then walk the 1 km or so to the church.

Really narrow roads going down to the ferry dock. And lots of cars parked everywhere they could. Even for Max it was a bit tough to navigate so I wouldn't have wanted to have a rig any larger than Max. Anyhow, we turned around and found parking up near a playground.

Based on the number of vehicles, we figured the ferry and the stave church were going to be really busy.

Looking down on the village of Solvorn.
You can see where we have to take the ferry to the other side.

We walked down to the ferry and our timing was perfect. It was boarding when we got there. But much to our surprise, there were no vehicles getting on. And only one other couple!

Cost to cross both ways as foot passengers was 180 kr ($23.60 CAD, $18.30 USD) for the two of us.

Looking back at the village of Solvorn.

And the view across the fjord.

The other couple on the ferry with us.

It was only as we pulled out of the ferry port that we were able to see why the parking area was so busy. It was because of the beach on the other side of the port! It was a gorgeous sunny day, and the kids were now out of school.

Lots of people enjoying the beautiful day.

Of course we were a bit relieved that they weren't all visiting the stave church.

I found the church on the other side and zoomed in on it.

This is what happens when you use poor building techniques!

Just two couples on the ferry.
The girl sitting down works on the boat.

Scenery along the way.

Looking back at Slovorn.

Slovorn, Norway.

Arriving on the other side at Ornes.

Urnes Stave Church.

It's odd how the village and surrounding area are called Ornes, and yet the church is spelled Urnes.

Built between 1130 and 1150.
It is the oldest of the remaining stave churches.

They have a small museum with a scale model of the structure of the church.

It's pretty rare that we would spend money to go inside a church. But this one was different, and the only way to see the inside was as part of the guided tour. We went to pay the 100 kr admission, and the guy asked if we were over 60! So we got the senior's price of 90 kr ($11.80 CAD, $9.15 USD) each.

Excavations have proven that there were three previous churches at this location prior to the current church. Remember I mentioned poor building techniques earlier? The previous churches had been build directly on the ground and the foundations rotted and the churches would eventually collapse. By the time they built the fourth church, they had figured out that they needed a stone foundation. 

Carved decorations on the exterior.
These, and the photo below were carvings from one of the previous churches.

Every five years or so the exterior is coated with a mixture of pine tar and carbon.

The interior.

Medieval chandelier.

The oldest wooden crucifix in Europe.

This church is well known for the wood animal carvings in the interior...

This is the earliest depiction of what would eventually become the Norwegian Coat of Arms.

The altar. 

Old paintings.

Here are some exterior shots...

Urnes Stave Church.

A photograph of a painting done in 1830.

So, we spent 360 kr ($47 CAD, $36.50 USD) to visit a church! The entertainment budget is taking a hit this month. But, we won't likely be back in Norway for a long time so we're trying to see as many of the highlights as possible in this part of the country.

No overnight parking in Slovorn, so we drove to a nearby ski hill that is obviously closed at this time of year, and spent the night in their big parking lot. And there is still free WiFi coming form the ski chalet!

Men's RockDove Memory Foam Slippers. Select your size and color to see the sale price.

And in Canada...


  1. Is humidity an issue there? What religion(s) are observed there? Who runs the ferries, govt or private companies?

    1. So far we haven't had any humidity, so it hasn't been an issue.

      According to Wikipedia, Evangelical Lutheran is the most popular religion at 68.7% followed by Catholic at 3.1% and then other regions both Christian and non Christian after that.

      It looks like the ferries are privately own and most of them being owned by Fjord1.

  2. It seems no matter which direction you look the scenery is just beautiful in Norway.
    Interesting Church.
    Be Safe and Enjoy!

    It's about time.

    1. Yep, this is very true! We don't think there are any bad views here in Norway, or at least that is what it seems. :-)

      We enjoyed our visit of the stave church.

  3. Replies
    1. Thank you Chris! We enjoyed the tour ourselves and learning about it. :-)


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