Monday, April 3, 2023

The Garmo Stave Church at Maihaugen

by: Rebecca May Davie

Stave churches in all their wooden glory, were constructed from the early 12th century through nearly 1350 A.D. You can read a portion of their history in Stave Churches of Norway.

The Garmo Stave church at Maihaugen is the topic of discussion here. Maihaugen is an open air museum located in Lillehammer, Norway. Anders Sandvig, an ambitious young dentist wanted to preserve Norway’s history. He compiled a host of structures to allow visitors to peek into Norwegian life of former eras. One of these buildings is Garmo. A lovely church, built around 1200, it was dismantled in 1880 and rebuilt in 1921, where it stands today.

As the tale goes, the Viking King Olav Haraldson gave Tesse - a fishing lake, to Torgeir Gamle as payment for building a church in Garmo on farmland in 1021. To give a frame of reference for the time, William the Conqueror, was born around 1028.

Garmo Stave church replaced the initial church Torgeir built. This church has columns, known as staves, which serve as the supports. It has planks that fill the corner posts. See photo at right.

The original Stave churches did not have windows. Notice the dark interior even with the few added windows. The services must have required copious candles over the years. Imagine sitting in a pew box listening to a message. Packed in among your family and neighbors in the stuffy and dim interior, you would sit for an extended period. If I remember correctly, the guide explained that services lasted nearly three hours, sometimes longer. For this very reason, the wealthy parishioners purchased raised private boxes so they could nap if it became too lengthy. Interesting concept.

Why are there dragons at the roofline of the church? Norwegians believed these dragons and the crosses served as protection. You might recall similar dragons on their notorious ships. We saw multiple buildings, even houses with this symbol while visiting various regions of Norway.

Another aspect of Stave churches is that they could be expanded over time because of their design. Garmo was no exception to additions over the years. The bell tower in 1690 and a reworking in the cruciform style in 1730 are a few of the notable changes.

The pulpit at left depicts the life of Jesus in carvings. I shot this photo and the others in this post on a research trip to Norway in 2022. Also from this journey we learned the story of Anders Sandvig. Read more about Maihaugen next month.

Have you visited a Stave church in Norway or in another country? What were your impressions? 

As a child, Rebecca loved to write. She nurtured this skill as an educator and later as an editor for an
online magazine. Rebecca then joined the Cru Ministry - NBS2GO/Neighbor Bible Studies 2GO, at its inception. She serves as the YouVersion Content Creator, with over 75 Plans on the app.

Rebecca lives in the mountains with her husband and a rescued dog named Ranger. If it were up to her, she would be traveling - right now. As a member of ACFW and FHLCW, Rebecca learns the craft of fiction while networking with a host of generous writers. She is working on her first fiction novel. This story unfolds from the 1830s in Northern Georgia.

Connect with Rebecca:
Clubhouse Facebook Goodreads Instagram Pinterest Twitter


  1. Thank you for posting today. I have never been to Norway nor to any villages in the US that may be Norwegian in heritage. I love "armchair traveling" and this blog is such a good place to do that!

  2. Thank you for commenting. I'm with you. Armchair traveling is fun! I think I need to research Norwegian settlements in the US. Thank you for the suggestion.