Unique World Heritage Site in majestic fjord landscape

Urnes stave church, which is the only stave church on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, sits in a beautiful location in the majestic fjord landscape of Luster in Sogn. It was inscribed on the list of the world's cultural and natural heritage of outstanding universal value in 1979. Urnes stave church has been dated to around 1130, making it one of the oldest stave churches in Norway. It is also the most distinctive and most lavishly decorated of Norway’s 28 surviving stave churches.
61,2979772 7,3229547
Urnes stavkyrkje, Ornes, 6870

Luster, Sogn og Fjordane (Vestland)

Owned by the National Trust of Norway since 1881.

Exquisite carvings and elaborate interior. The stave church was built as a lavish private church for a prominent man at Ornes. It is a jewel of a church with an elaborate interior and carvings of excellent craftsmanship. Precious objects were brought from far away to adorn this church. The ultramarine colour came via the Silk Road, the enamelled candleholders from Limoges in France.

The Urnes style and Romanesque style. The high artistic quality of the carvings on the famous portal in the north wall, dating from about 1070, makes it one of Norway's most important architectural treasures. It is carved in what is known as the Urnes style, the last of the Viking Age styles. The portal is a reused part of an older church on the same site. The stave church may have been modelled on the Romanesque churches with cubic capitals and semi-circular arches. The capitals of the staves in Urnes stave church are elaborately decorated with mythic animals such as centaurs and griffins, birds, different animals and vines.

Preserved medieval interior. The church’s medieval interior is unusually well preserved. There is a crucifix above the chancel arch, and the crucified Christ is flanked by John the Baptist and a figure depicting Mary. This is one of Norway's finest and best preserved Calvary groups, and is believed to date from about 1150. The medieval candle holders, with a chandelier hanging from the ceiling and a boat-shaped candleholder on the altar, are intact, as is the ‘bishop’s seat’ – one of only a few of the medieval type to survive in Norway.

Things to do in the area. Urnes is located in one of Norway's most popular tourist areas, surrounded by magnificent scenery and outdoor activities. Visit Sognefjord  West Norwegian Fjords Luster municipality has many attractions and activities to offer, ranging from the World Heritage Site Urnes stave church to Jostedalsbreen glacier, Walaker hotel with its long-standing traditions and beautiful Dale church. The National Trust of Norway also owns other properties in the area: Kaupanger stave church, Borgund stave church, the old bakery (Gamlebakeriet) at Lærdalsøyri, Hopperstad stave church, Gaupne old church and Hove stone church.


The Directorate for Cultural Heritage's Stave Church Preservation Programme. Urnes Stave Church. Fact sheet. /Kirker i Norge. Anker, Leif and Havran, Jiri. ARFO 2005