Step back in time at Hegge stave church (Hegge stavkyrkje), an early 13th-century stave church located in Øystre Slidre municipality in Valdres, Norway. You might encounter locals, since the church is still in use as a parish church in the local community. The first recorded reference to the church dates from 1327, though dendrochronological analysis of some of the logs in the church indicates that the church was built around 1216. It is a basilica type church with 8 free-standing interior columns forming an arcade, surrounding a central area with a raised roof. Entering the church, you will go through a splendid gate from the Middle Ages and inside the church you will see the original staves with carved face masks of ancient northern saints in the attic, one of them adorned with runic inscriptions: "Erling Arnson wrote these runes." Take a closer look at the baptismal fountain made of soapstone, dating back from the 1100s. It is elegantly decorated with ornaments of knots, trees, human figures, and stars.
The story behind the altarpiece of Hegge
This remarkable 18th-century altarpiece (triptych) shows the Holy Communion and the Garden of Gethsemane. There is a special story attached to the making of the altarpiece and how it was transported to Hegge stave church. Four men from Hegge were in Gudbrandsdalen to trade livestock, but on their trip back to Hegge, they got caught up in a mountain storm. They promised God that if they were to return home safe and sound, each of them would donate the value of a cow to Hegge Church. They kept their word, ordered and paid for the altarpiece in Gudbrandsdalen and brought it home on a sledge. The altarpiece was crafted by a local artist in 1780.
A local witness of history
After the Protestant Reformation, ridge turrets were raised, which changed the external appearance of the old church. Later in 1706 and in 1712, some repairs were made on the church, and then a major restoration was carried out in 1924, under the leadership of architect Arnstein Arneberg, who later conducted extensive renovation of the Hamar Cathedral. From the end of June to the 15th of August, don't miss the chance to discover this authentic Norwegian wooden church, with daily guided tours. The rest of the year, tours are only upon request. During wintertime, you will enjoy the romantic sight of this medieval church covered in snow.