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During the Middle Ages, a new type of wooden construction technique became popular all over northwestern Europe, especially in Norway, where it was employed to build churches. They are called “stave churches”. The key feature of their design is that instead of driving the load-bearing wooden posts, called staves, and planks of the structure directly into holes in the ground, which made them susceptible to rot, a foundation of boulders was laid on which the wooden frame of the building was erected. The wooden planks and corner posts thus rest on a raised platform which protect them from water decay. The method proved so effective that many churches built in the 12th century are still standing today.

It is estimated that between 1,300 to as many as 2,000 stave churches were built in Norway during the 12th and 13th centuries, which many regard as Norway's first building boom. Some of the best-known stave churches are characterized by a roof with multiple tiers of triangular frames that gradually diminish in size. Many also have portals embellished with fine woodcarving and wall paintings that feature pagan and Christian motifs. About 30 or so stave churches still survive today. Here are some of the most famous ones.

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The Borgund Stave Church. Photo credit: Steve Cottrell/Flickr

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© Amusing Planet, 2016.


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