Flesberg Stave Church is the first stave church you’ll pass when making your way up the historic Numedal Valley from Oslo towards Geilo. However, it doesn’t really look like a stave church. That’s because it was extended in the early 18th century. They removed most of the stave church. Still, there is a story with this church, and it’s well worth a stop on your Numedal road-trip. Here’s my overview of Flesberg Stave Church.
Numedal Valley Scenic Drive
This stave church is part of the scenic road from Kongsberg to Geilo. You can find more info about this drive (and watch it on YouTube) by clicking the button below.
The Original Stave Church
The first written description of Flesberg Stave Church is from 1359. It’s believed the church is from the latter half of the 1100s or the first half of the 1200s. The church was a single nave church with four-free standing internal posts bearing a central raised roof. It is the stave church category ‘churches with elevated naves’, in the same category as churches like Borgund, Gol, Lom and Kaupanger.
We know what Flesberg used to look like. Luckily, one of the first-ever paintings of a stave church is of Flesberg from 1701, shortly before it they rebuilt it. From this, we can see how much Flesberg looked like the churches mentioned above.
Rebuilding the Church
The priest in the 1730s, Johannes Berthelsen, complained the church was too small. So, they made plans to expand the church. In 1735, the chancel and aspe, as well as the east nave, were removed. They added two transepts. The new church was a cruciform plan. The new additions were not built in the stave style, but rather the modern horizontal log style. In 1792, they rebuilt the roof.
The stave church choir was torn down. Moreover, the middle poles were removed. It’s not known how many poles stood here, but there are traces of corner bars.
The only part of the original stave church is on the western side.
On the west portal you can see stave decorations. You’ll see carved vines and animal ornamentation. These are only tiny remnants of the original decor.
Today Flesberg has little in common with the other stave churches. There are so few indications of the original church.
The churchyard is fence with slate from the Haukeli farm on the west bank of the Lågen River. Some slates have iron rings attached to them; this was for the horses. The oldest ring is from 1661.
The stone fence is shown in the 1701 painting. The fence is at least that old.
Outside the church you’ll find some very old gravestones. Moreover, there is also a blue plaque saying that elections took place at this church in 1814. This isn’t unique; many churches in Norway have this blue plaque.
They did an extensive restoration in the 1870s, but it did no favours for the stave part of the church. The National Heritage Board did a new renovation between 1955 and 1965. This renovation brought the church back to its 18th century appearance.
The western portal of the ship is where you’ll find some exterior decoration. The entrance has two lion figures above it. The posts on either side of the doorway are richly decorated with carved vines and animal ornamentation.
The interior of the church is well known. It’s not open to the public all the time (see below), so there is a chance you won’t be able to see inside. I didn’t get the opportunity to see inside, but I still think it’s worth putting an overview here.
The interior of the church is redecorated to look like the church did in 1735. There are very few remains of its medieval era. The whitewashing on the walls was removed in the 1950s. They discovered decorative paintings from the Middle Ages. Some fixtures date back to the Middle Ages, including a bell and the baptismal font. Otherwise, the pulpit is from the 1600s and the chandeliers are from the 18th century. The 1701 painting of the church is inside.
Flesberg is a sleepy community with little opportunities for shopping or sightseeing. This is partly because the town is close to Kongsberg, a large and famous Norwegian town known for its historic mines.
The name Flesberg comes from an old farm. The Flesberg Stave Church is built on the farm. This is very common in small towns in Norway. They built churches on the richest farms, and eventually the farms became the towns. Fles means ‘rock’ and berg means ‘mountain’.
Today around 1,172 people live in Flesberg. Forestry and agriculture are the main industries. Many people in Flesberg commute to nearby Kongsberg.
Visiting the Church
Flesberg is open throughout the summer (late June to early August) on Tuesdays – Fridays and Sunday fro 12pm to 5pm.
Tickets are 35 NOK pp.
The Numedal Valley, which is the best preserved medieval valley in Norway, has a Medieval Week. If you happen to be in Numedal during Medieval Week, the church is open every day from 12pm to 5pm.
Flesberg is still an active church for the community.
Flesberg is located on the Fv40 highway that connects Kongsberg to Geilo in central-eastern Norway. It is marked with brown signs saying “Flesberg stavkirke”.
We parked across the street, where there is a large parking area.