Fjord Norway is also home to many of the country’s 28 surviving stave churches. These intricate wooden houses of worship, built between the 12th and 14th centuries, are elaborate mixes of Christian and pagan symbolism. It’s thought Viking skill at boatbuilding and woodcarving found its ultimate expression in these medieval sanctuaries.
Travel across the stunning Atlantic Road from Kristiansund to the beautiful church at Kvernes. One of Norway’s “newest” stave churches, at just 700 years old or so, Kvernes boasts a baroque pulpit and an altarpiece from 1475, not to mention simply magnificent fjord views.
The famed 12th century Hopperstad stave church at Vik was abandoned and nearly lost before being saved and restored starting in 1880. Thanks to meticulous reconstruction, the triple-nave church remains a favourite of locals and visitors alike. In Urnes, meanwhile, you’ll find what UNESCO calls “an outstanding representative of stave churches.” Perched on a promontory over the Sognefjord, the 12th-century sanctuary’s intricately carved walls, columns and gables spectacularly link pagan Nordic heritage with medieval Christianity in what might be the best example of the medium.
A Renaissance-era church, on the other hand, is one of the main attractions at Jelsa, considered the best-preserved fjord side village in Ryfylke between Stavanger and Haugesund. The whitewashed houses, carved wooden church and picturesque wharf conspire to form a charming village scene that’s a sightseer’s delight.