Borgund Stave Church: “Thor Wrote These Runes”

Borgund Stave ChurchBorgund Stave Church (Norwegian: Borgund stavkirke) is located in Borgund, Lærdal municipality. It is classified as a triple nave stave church of the so-called Sogn-type. Of about 1500 Norwegian Middle Age stave churches, 28 still exist – and Borgund is the best preserved.

The church, which is dedicated to the Apostle Andrew, is first mentioned in 1342 AD, but it is customary to date it to the period 1150-1200. Dendrochronological studies (tree-ring dating) have shown that the timber used for the construction was felled in the winter 1180-1181. The church must have been built in the period just after this.

Several runic inscriptions are found on the walls of the church. One reads: “Thor wrote these runes in the evening at the St. Olav’s Mass”, and another one reads “Ave Maria”, found at the west portal of the church.

The Church Today

The stave church was in regular use until 1868 when the new church was completed. The cemetery is still in use. The church was purchased by the The Society for the Preservation of Norwegian Ancient Monuments in 1877 and soon became a popular tourist attraction. In 1898, a guide in both Norwegian and English was made for the many visitors.

In recent years, tourism has brought a certain abrasion but in 1973, new wooden floors and plastic covers to protect the inscriptions were installed.


The church has three portals. The nave portals are facing west and south, and the chancel portal is facing south. The west entrance has got archivolts and is flanked by half columns. It is decorated with animal ornamentation (interlaced dragons) and leaf vines. The southern doorway of the nave is similar to the western portal, but more modestly decorated with a carved lion standing on top of the section. The roof is covered with traditional shingle, and some are probably medieval.

Parts of the ridge were replaced in 1738, which is also illustrated by an inscription in the decor. Dragon heads and ceiling decorations have been replaced, but one of the heads from the Middle Ages were preserved for posterity.


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Borgund Stave Church interiorThe medieval interior is left virtually untouched; however, some objects were removed after the Reformation. The medieval wooden floor and benches along the walls of the nave is also partly preserved, along with a medieval stone altar and a baptismal font made ​​of soapstone.

The pulpit dates back from the period 1550-1570. The altarpiece originates from 1654, while the frame dates back to 1620. The painting shows the Crucifixion, surrounded by the Virgin Mary and John the Baptist. In the tympanum, a white dove hovers on a blue surface. Below the painting is an inscription with gold letters on a black background. Inside the church there is also a sacrament of creation from the period 1550-1570.

In 1908, a replica of Borgund Stave Church was built in Germany called the Gustav Adolf Stave Church.


See Also The Following Articles:

Urnes Stave Church – 1130 AD 

The Unique Uvdal Stave Church

Hoppestad Stave Church – One of the Oldest Stave Churches 

Text by: Thor Lanesskog, ThorNews

Photos by: Wikipedia

Sources: Directorate for Cultural Heritage, Wikipedia

Categories: Culture, History, Travel, Western Norway

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