The Viking conversion to Christianity was a slow one, as it took centuries for Scandinavians to accept that it meant saying goodbye to their old gods. Stave churches, or stavkirker as they’re known in Norway, were built just at the precipice of this titanic shift. Constructed throughout the 11th and 12th centuries, stave churches often sport a mix of Christian icons and Norse design elements, including, sometimes, a stray pagan deity or Viking hero.
The churches themselves are made entirely of wood, often without even nails or screws. Their name comes from the unique post-and-lintel system used in construction—thick wooden posts known as “staves” hold them up. Many of the building techniques used to construct these churches were developed and honed through the Vikings’ revolutionary developments in shipbuilding. Archaeologists estimate there were as many as 2,000 of these epic wooden churches scattered throughout Scandinavia. Today, fewer than 30 remain. Here are some of our favorites, original and reimagined, including a few across the sea, where a different, much later wave of Scandinavian migration landed.
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