Take advantage of the search to browse through the World Heritage Centre information.

Urnes Stave Church

Urnes Stave Church

The wooden church of Urnes (the stavkirke) stands in the natural setting of Sogn og Fjordane. It was built in the 12th and 13th centuries and is an outstanding example of traditional Scandinavian wooden architecture. It brings together traces of Celtic art, Viking traditions and Romanesque spatial structures.

Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

« Stavkirke » d’Urnes

C'est dans le cadre naturel du Sogn og Fjordane que s'élève un chef-d'œuvre de l'architecture de bois des pays scandinaves : l'église à piliers de bois (ou « stavkirke ») d'Urnes, construite aux XIIe et XIIIe siècles. On peut y distinguer à la fois des réminiscences de l'art celtique, des traditions vikings et des structures spatiales romanes.

Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

كنيسة أورن الخشبية ستافكيرك

في محيط سون اوغ فيوردان الطبيعي، شُيّدت تحفة من الهندسة الخشبية في البلدان الاسكندينافية هي كنيسة أورن المؤلفة من الدعائم الخشبية (أو ستافكيرك) التي بنيت في القرنَيْن الثاني عشر والثالث عشر، حيث نستطيع ملاحظة أثار الفن السلتيّ وعادات الفايكنكز والبنية المساحيّة الرومانيّة.

source: UNESCO/CPE
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0


奥尔内斯教堂是木建筑,坐落于松恩-菲尤拉纳自然风景区内。教堂建造于12世纪至13世纪之间,是斯堪的纳维亚木结构建筑中的一个特殊遗迹。那里汇集了凯尔特艺术、 维京传统以及罗马式空间结构的各种不同的风格。

source: UNESCO/CPE
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

Деревянная церковь в Урнесе

Деревянная церковь («ставкирке») в Урнесе расположена в живописном природном окружении на берегу Стогне-фьорда. Она была сооружена в XII-XIII вв. и является выдающимся примером традиционной скандинавской деревянной архитектуры. В ней соединяются воедино элементы кельтского искусства, традиции викингов и романский стиль.

source: UNESCO/CPE
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

“Stavkirke” de Urnes

Emplazada en el paisaje natural de Sogn og Fjordane, la iglesia de tablas (stavkirke) de Urnes es una obra maestra de la arquitectura en madera tradicional escandinava. Fue construida entre los siglos XII y XIII y pueden observarse en ella reminiscencias del arte celta, de las tradiciones vikingas y de la estructuración del espacio característica del románico.

source: UNESCO/CPE
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0


source: NFUAJ

Staafkerk van Urnes

De houten kerk van Urnes (de stavkirke) staat in de natuurlijke omgeving van Sogn og Fjordane. De kerk werd gebouwd in de 12e en 13e eeuw en is een uitstekend voorbeeld van de traditionele Scandinavische hout-architectuur. Het brengt sporen van de Keltische kunst, Viking tradities en Romaanse ruimtelijke constructies samen. Er zijn wereldwijd ongeveer 1.300 middeleeuwse staafkerken, waarvan 30 in Noorwegen. De kerken zijn gebouwd naar het ontwerp van de basiliek, maar geheel van hout. Karakteristiek voor de bouw zijn de ronde pilaren met rechthoekige kapitelen en halfronde bogen. De Staafkerk van Urnes staat symbool voor de houten gebouwen van het vroege Noord-Europa.

Source: unesco.nl

Outstanding Universal Value

Brief synthesis 

Urnes Stave Church is situated on a promontory in the remarkable Sognefjord on the west coast of Norway. The stave churches constitute one of the most elaborate and technologically advanced types of wooden construction that existed in North-Western Europe during the Middle Ages. The churches were built on the classic basilica plan, but entirely of wood. The roof frames were lined with boards and the roof itself covered with shingles in accordance with construction techniques which were widespread in Scandinavian countries. Among the roughly 1,300 medieval stave churches indexed, 28 are preserved in Norway today. Some of them are very large, such as Borgund, Hopperstad or Heddal churches, whereas others, such as Torpo or Underdal, are tiny.

Urnes is one of the oldest and is an outstanding representative of the stave churches. The church expresses in wood the language and spatial structures of Romanesque stone architecture, characterized by the use of cylindrical columns with cubic capitals and semi-circular arches. The wood carving and sculpted decor of exquisite quality on the outside includes strap-work panels and elements of Viking tradition from the previous building (11th century) which constitute the origin of the "Urnes style”, also found in other parts of Scandinavia and North-Western Europe. These carvings are found on the northern wall with a carved decoration of interlaced, fighting animals. Similar carvings cover the western gable triangle of the nave and the eastern gable of the choir. In the interior of the church, there is an extraordinary series of 12th century carved figurative capitals. The carvings are important both as outstanding artistic artefacts, and as a link between the pre-Christian Nordic culture and the Christianity of the medieval ages. The church also contains a wealth of liturgical objects of the medieval period.

Criterion (i): The Urnes Stave Church is an outstanding example of traditional Scandinavian wooden architecture. It brings together traces of Celtic art, Viking traditions and Romanesque spatial structures. The outstanding quality of the carved décor of Urnes is a unique artistic achievement.

Criterion (ii): The stave churches are representative of the highly developed tradition of wooden buildings that extended through the Western European cultural sphere during the Middle Ages. Urnes is one of the oldest of the Norwegian stave churches and an exceptional example of craftsmanship. It also reveals the development from earlier techniques and therefore contributes to the understanding of the development of this specific tradition.

Criterion (iii) : Urnes Stave Church is an ancient  wooden building and is outstanding due to the large-scale reuse of both decorative and constructive elements originating from a stave church built about one century earlier. It is an outsTanding example of the use of wood to express the language of Romanesque stone architecture.


The World Heritage property is composed of the stave church itself, surrounded by a medieval cemetery enclosed by a stone wall. Since all elements that constitute a stave building on the one hand and a church on the other are retained, the integrity of the site is fully present. The church and the cemetery are still in use. All items necessary for church services are in place, many of them also very old, even dating back to medieval times. As a building representing the stave technique, all characteristics are to be found in the church. Moreover, together with the reused remnants and the excavated elements from an earlier building that was raised with the staves dug into the ground, Urnes with its frame of sills resting on stone foundations is a testimony to the completed development of the stave technique. The outside décor from the older church is remarkably well preserved after nearly one thousand years of exposure and weathering.

The vulnerability of the church is mostly related to danger of fire and pressure from excessive tourism. Climate change, such as increased precipitation, will also have negative impacts on the wooden building if they are not addressed in a timely manner.


Over the centuries, interventions have been carried out to adapt the church building to religious and practical needs. These interventions are clearly visible, and as such provide authentic testimony to social life and religious practices. Two of the 16 staves (poles) in its interior were cut during medieval times to make room for a side altar which was later removed. The medieval furnishings of Urnes Stave Church include a wooden Calvary group over the choir opening, two altar candlesticks of Limoges enamelled bronze, and a chair constructed entirely of turned spindles. During the 17th century some interventions were made both to the construction and the furnishing. The altarpiece and pulpit of the church, the gallery, benches and closed pews, the choir screen and the wooden vault in the nave are all additions from around 1700. The choir was extended eastwards around the year 1600, also in the stave technique. The walls here are covered with paintings: scrolls, architectural motives, and apostles, all dated 1601. A clock tower has been built as a ridge turret. The name Støpulhaugen given to a hill just outside the stone wall indicates that the bell in earlier times was placed there in a separate construction.

The Urnes Stave Church has been subject to excellent conservation as a whole, homogeneous ensemble. The embellishments of the 17th century (1601 and around 1700) and the restorations of 1906-1910 fully preserved its authenticity. This is also the case for the restoration of the foundations (2009-10).

Protection and management requirements

The World Heritage property is protected by the Norwegian Cultural Heritage Act. The State Party has the overall responsibility and the county authority has the management responsibility at the regional level. The owner, the Society for the Preservation of Ancient Monuments, has drawn up an overall plan for the management and conservation of the property. A cooperation group for the World Heritage property was established in 1998 with members from all administrative levels and stakeholders.

The church is no longer a parish church. However, it is of vital symbolic value for the community and is still in use for some christenings and weddings. The medieval cemetery is in use only for a few local families.

In 2010 an extensive restoration program led by the Directorate of Cultural Heritage been concluded, and the church is now in a good state of preservation. An advanced fire protection system with suppression systems and monitoring has been installed. Due to the remote location of the church, tourism to the site is still modest. Although arrangements for tourism are kept to a minimum, they are carefully designed. Any new activity is handled under the supervision of the cooperation group, and will be subject to procedures of the authority in charge.