Øye Stave Church has the appearance of an old church. I could almost envision Vikings stepping out of the front door after their service. Øye Stave Church is one of the oldest churches in the country. We do know that stave churches did borrow architectural inspiration from old Viking structures, so it’s plausible. Located just outside the town of Vang and close to the E16 between Bergen and Oslo, Øye Stave Church is a worthy roadside stop for stretching your legs. Its history differs from the other stave churches, and it is a beautiful place to visit. Here’s some info about Øye Stave Church.
The Church on the Swamp
Øye Stave Church is one of the smallest and oldest stave churches in Norway. It is likely from some time during the second half of the 12th century. The church is first mentioned in written documents in 1347. It stood by the old traffic road over Filefjell, which was the first road between Bergen and Oslo.
When the church was originally built, it stood by the lake and the river. This caused issues; the river flooded in the spring. Legend says that the reason the church had to eventually be moved was that it was so swampy that coffins floated up in the spring when there was flooding.
In 1665, the church was described as being in a poor state of repair and either rotting away or the wind was ripping it apart. It was in bad shape. So, they had to move it.
Goodbye, Øye Stave Church
In 1747, Øye Stave Church was torn down. A new church was built further up the hill and closer to the town. Eventually, everyone forgot about Øye Stave Church. After all, Vang Stave Church was sold off to Prussia in 1842. Very few cared about stave churches during this time.
A Stave Church is Born
When the new Øye Church was under renovations in 1935, the floor was being replaced. They discovered there were 156 pieces of the old stave church under the floor of the new church. Why they were there is unknown, but architects knew there was enough of the old stave church for it to be rebuilt. So, they did.
The plot where the Øye Stave Church stands is not the original plot, but it is just as scenic. A reconstruction plan was finalised in 1950, and it took 15 years to rebuild the stave church. They, of course, took inspiration from other stave churches in the Valdres Valley. The pieces used in the stave church were a mix of the original 156 and replicas of pieces. Many parts of the original stave church were taken away to museums in Fagernes and Oslo for preservation. They even used some pieces left over from the restoration of Heddal Stave Church. The new Øye Stave Church was inaugurated in 1965.
Architecture & Interior
The stave church is a simple stave layout with a rectangular shape. There are two carved portals on the stave church, a classic feature, but these are replicas. The originals are in a museum.
Inside the church, some historic artefacts are kept in the otherwise simple interior. The interior is bare woodwork and very little painting, unlike other stave churches. The floorboards are original, but most of the building material are copies. In the choir is a crucifix from the Middle Ages. The font used for baptising is from the Middle Ages and is carved from one tree. It came from St. Thomas’ Church at Filefjell when that church was torn down in 1808. More about that church on my page about Vang. Lastly, one of the pews may be from the Middle Ages.
The Church Today & Øye Church
Today Øye Stave Church is used for weddings and Midsummer mass only. All services take place in the new Øye Church from 1747. Looking at it, you can see the design is inspired by the stave church.
Visiting Øye Stave Church
At the time of writing, Øye Stave Church is not open to the public. Instead, the website says to contact their office. You can find the up-to-date information here.
Other stave churches in Valdres Valley do open to museums. You can see them both on my page about the E16 and my page about Valdres.
The church is still worth visiting to see the outside. There is a parking area right in front of the church, and out the front is a sign in English and Norwegian.
Øye Stave Church is marked on Google Maps and it’s a short drive off the E16. Brown signs lead you to the church.
There are no facilities here, but you are close to Vang, which has many more options.