Monday, February 04, 2008

Stange Church - as old as the hills

One foggy Sunday in October, we went to see the majestic church at Stange. This wonderful building goes far into the Middle Ages, but the current structure is not the first on the site. At Stange Church you tread on historic ground. Here people have come to pray to their God for nearly 1000 years.

The church at Stange is one of two large church buildings in the area. The even older and larger church at Ringsaker goes even further back, to around the year 1100, and was dedicated to the Norwegian patron saint, Saint Olaf, that christened the area in 1018.

In the Håkon Håkonssons saga from 1225 Stange church was mentioned as the church at Skaun, and it was the centre of a community "with many large houses and church buildings." If you look around, you will see why. Wide areas of arable land has been created during thousands of years of hard struggle. Here you find some of the largest houses in the country belonging to old aristocratic families.

When the saga was written, there was another church on the site. The current church was built 25 years after the saga, in 1250. Under the floor of the nave, you find the remains of even an older building with old roof paint and an altar preserved.

These old church remains were found in an archaeological excavation in 1986. Then even old graves were found, that may predate even this building. If so we may be even further back into the mist of time.

The churches at Ringsaker and Stange were important for the pilgrims from the eastern part of Norway. The would walk along the lake Mjøsa, or maybe crossing it by boat. From the end of the lake, they would walk up the Gudbrandsdal valley and cross over the mountains. Their goal was the magnificent cathedral at Nidaros, the resting place of Saint Olaf, Norways eternal king.

Stange church has, as most sacred buildings of the same age, been changed several times. We know of alterations from the years 1300, 1703, and 1800. In 1620 a fire ravaged, and a new roof and the tall tower is dated from that time. This tower is covered by wooden chips, as many of the old stave churches and the recently described church at Sunnemo.

In the church you find a baroque altar piece dating from 1652 and a painting by the famous Norwegian Harriet Backer.

Stange church is absolutely worth visiting. The site and the area around is packed with historic remains and buildings. The importance of the church can be seen by the size of the residence of the local priest.

This house rivals the largest farms in size, so there is no doubt that the priests holding this church belonged to the local elite.

Wonder where the church is located?

See my map the Hamar area here.

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