When Christianity was introduced in Scandinavia a bit over a millennium ago it triggered a building boom all across the area. A huge number of churches had to be built in short span of time. The demand of such a number of constructions had never been seen before in Scandinavia so it was necessary to build the churches of a material readily available in large quantities – this material were wood. The first churches in Scandinavia were all made from wood.
In the following centuries these churches all disappeared in Denmark – wood didn’t survive long in the Danish climate and were replaced by stone constructions. Churches of stone became the norm in Denmark as early as the 12th century and no more wooden churches were constructed. In Norway the wooden churches had a better faith. It turned out they could survive much longer in the Norwegian climate and they kept building more wooden churches up through the 16th century. It is estimated some 1,000 churches had been built when the Black Death hit Norway in 1349 and by the reformation in 1537 there might have been as many as 2,000 spread across the country.
Most of these wooden churches have been lost and today only 28 have survived. One of these churches is the church of Hopperstad which is found just outside the small village of Vikøyri at Sognefjorden. It may not be the most famous of all the stave churches since the Urnes church is the one which has made it to the UNESCO world heritage list. But this church has a great advantage for us – it is right next to our route so we stop by the church.
The church is a big wooden structure which dates back to 1130 and it was in use up until 1877 when a new church was built and replaced the ancient church in daily use. The locals decided to donate the old church to the national trust of Norway which is dedicated to preserve the ancient buildings.
The church original appearance is unknown since it went through a major reconstruction in 1880 which did change the appearance somewhat. But the restoration did use a nearby church in Borglund and the remnants of the old church when they designed the new church. So it is possible the current church is a decent representation of the ancient church.
No matter what we find the church is an interesting little stop to visit. The church is pretty big and tall from the outside and on roof there are some crosses but also different carvings which kind of looks like something you could have found on a Viking ship.