Heddal Stave Church.
Photo: Tom Thowsen 2020

I`m talking about the biggest Stave Church in Norway, where some of the wooden structures have survived since it was ready in the mid-1200s — some 800 years ago — which is quite impressing

Due to the ongoing worldwide pandemic that hunts us all, I decided to travel in my homeland this summer. I went back to my roots in Telemark, to visit the Church where some of my relatives lie buried. The Amazing Heddal Stave Church.

Once seen, never forgotten.

Look for yourself

Some features in this monumental building breaths Viking age. Did I hear someone saying WOW? — Yes it`s true, in this once a Roman Catholic Church, there are traces of the old paganism. The dragonheads, for instance.

Furthermore, there is a legend telling about the erection of the church. And fasten your seatbelt, please — it was a troll who built it. Just three days of construction!

Oh, by the way, Finn Fagerlokk(Fairhair) is his name. He could not ever after stand the sound of church bells, so he moved along with his family to Himing (Lifjell). In case you need an extremely efficient house builder.

Other pagan features in this church, are Sigurd Fåvnesbane, the dragon slayer, and the shieldmaiden Brynhild.

Old taggers, using runic letters.
Photo: Tom Thowsen 2020
A door decorated with Viking style patterns.
Photo: Tom Thowsen
A thick layer of tar for preservation.
Photo: Tom Thowsen 2020

Though it can feel magical with the troll, he owes us an explanation of how he managed to build this church, in just three days, which have lasted for almost eight hundred years.

Psst, here you have a clue for the durability. Tar galore.

Another thing – he cheated. It demanded years of preparations. He had to choose the right trees in the forest, take the bark off them, let them bleed resin while they were still growing. And finally, after several years of waiting, he cut them down – with other words: A time-consuming prosses beyond our modern people’s imagination. That is the real story. Thankfully for us, someone cared, thank God.

Heddal Stave Church in its surroundings.
Tom Thowsen 2020

The Sea of Beauty

In the Norwegian archipelago of Hvaler, in the fishermen’s outpost at Utgårdskilen, you can wander along the shore. Here you can watch their boats, or you can look at the open sea of Skagerak. See the lighthouse on Torbjørnskjær on the horizon. Take a bath if you want or sunbathe on the cliffs. It’s a beautiful world.

Along the pier at Utgårdskilen, the fisher boats and their equipment lie, ready to take off to the sea. This safe harbour is next to the open ocean, and here they also deliver the Catch.
Photo: Tom Thowsen
Hvaler and Utgårdskilen are situated less than two hours’ drive by car from the capital Oslo. Hence many of the capital’s citizens come here in their spare time. Some even have cabins here, even the royals and the NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. It’s well worth a visit if you visit Norway. Photo: Tom Thowsen
A sea of shells washed ashore. Photo: Tom Thowsen
Small fishes washed ashore as well, from the strong waves of the ocean, were now swimming in these shallow ponds. Photo: Tom Thowsen
Photo: Tom Thowsen
View to Skagerak. In the horizon, you can see these objects lined up from the left: Akerøya, Vesleøya—and the tiny little thing to the right is Torbjørnskjær lighthouse. Photo: Tom Thowsen
Photo: Tom Thowsen

As a silent witness, carved to last forever, and shrouded in the mists of time, is it there:

With its 4 x 1,5 meters, this is probably the largest of its kind in Northern Europe. Its location is in South-eastern Norway. Today the rock is lying in the farm fields. At the time the carving was created, around 3000 years ago, this was a coast.

Photo: Thomas M. Hansen

A ship like this was 20 meters long and crewed by 24 warriors. On calm water, it could do 8 knots, 3,5 on the open sea. A crossing from Denmark to Norway could take 18 hours.

At this time, 2000 years before the Vikings, our ancestors had horned helmets. The Vikings had none.

Photo: Tom Thowsen
The farm fields in Skjeberg, in the vicinity of the carving. Three thousand years ago, most of this was beneath the sea. Photo: Tom Thowsen