The church of the Holdhus Madonna

This church makes a subtle impression in the landscape. Inside, the joy of painting is evident in Holdhus old church, and the colourful and elaborately decorated interior makes it one of Norway’s prettiest post-reformation churches. The church also contains a very special object from the 15th century: Norway's only painted stone madonna sculpture.
60,2547101 5,9243407
Holdhus kyrkje, Fv123 240, Eikelandsosen, 5640

Eikelandsosen, Hordaland (Vestland)

Owned by the National Trust of Norway since 1900.

A beautiful post-reformation church. The church was probably built in the 1720s, shortly after a stave church that used to stand on the site had been pulled down. The interior reflects a joy of painting and is decorated with vines, drapery and figures painted in vivid colours. The building has a complex construction history and comprises parts from different periods. The chancel is from the mid-19th century, the nave dates from the early 18th century, and the steeple is even older. The pulpit from 1570 is decorated with a variety of palmette carvings (fans of stylised palm leaves), spheres, diamond shapes and circular chip carving ornaments. A catechism altarpiece from 1590 hangs in the chancel. The church was privately owned until 1876, when it was given to the congregation. It was subsequently sold to hotel owner Hans Holdhus to be pulled down, and he in turn sold it to the National Trust of Norway.

The Holdhus Madonna: The Holdhus Madonna from the 15th century is Norway’s only medieval painted stone madonna. The stone sculpture of Mary and the infant Jesus spent just under a year at the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research (NIKU) before it was returned to Holdhus church on 14 June 2012. Although the colours had faded and the paint had started to flake, the sculpture was quite well preserved. Dust and mould covered large parts of the sculpture when it arrived at the conservation studio. There were traces of tar that had run down the sculpture, probably during its time in the stave church. The Holdhus Madonna was cleaned and flaking paint consolidated (glued in place). Tar residue that could not be removed was covered up with a water-based paint of the same colour as the surrounding paint. Read more on NIKU’s website 

After the Holdhus Madonna’s conservation at NIKU, a digital reconstruction was created with an animation that shows the sculpture's original colours and patterns. See the video here:

Things to do in the area: Beautiful landscape in the Hålandsdalen valley, rich coastal culture, long-standing boatbuilding tradition, Oseana Art and Culture Centre, and Ole Bull’s home Lysøen. Os boasts a wide range of activities and experiences, and Bergen with all that the city has to offer is not far away.  

Sources: En reise gjennom norsk byggekunst, ed. Terje Forseth. National Trust of Norway, 1994.