Norwegian Church Linens

Originally my thought was this would be a newsletter on the history of church linens and show you the few linen pieces I saw while in Norway. However, as I did my research, there is far more information on church linens than I ever thought possible. Plus, there are quite a number of pictures I want to share with you. So, I will let the pictures tell the story and save the research paper on church linens until another time.

Our first day in the Sigdal area we visited the Eggedal church.

Eggedal, Norway, is an ecclesiastical division rather than a political division. It consists of the portion of Sigdal Kommune served by the Eggedal Church (Eggedal Kirke). The Eggedal Church dates back to 1878. It has undergone some restoration and updating. One of the big projects was the painting of the interior. It was done by Carsten Lien who was related to my host family and Earl Knutson (and his wife Betty) who I was traveling with. Here are some examples of the incredible artwork he created.

There were several pieces of linen on the altar and baptismal font

There was also this piece of Whitework in the entry way.

On our second day, we went to Olberg, Norway.

The Olberg Church was consecrated on October 19, 1859 replacing their stave church. The pulpit was saved and it dates back to 1699. The font is from 1725. The chandelier is gilded metal from 1900.

The altar was covered with a lovely Hardanger-embroidered linen as well.

One of the important pieces of history with this church is Jorgen Moe. Beginning with the summer of 1841, Moe would travel throughout southern Norway researching folklore and collecting stories. In what seems to be almost opposite in thinking, Moe was appointed a professor of theology in 1845. He was ordained in 1853 and spent ten years serving the Olberg and Sigdal churches.

During this time there, he wrote many famous poems, like den gamle Mester (The Old Master). This was a poem about an old tree that stood near the church. It is still standing and we stopped to see it. Nordet refused to get off the bus, but wanted his picture taken with the tree.

From 1863 to 1874 he served several other parishes. In 1875 he became Bishop in the Diocese of Agder.

Moe continued to write and also published a delightful collection of stories for children. While in school, Moe met Peter Christen Asbjornsen. Together with Peter, Jorgen had a huge impact on Norwegian culture. Moe and Asbjornsen are well known for their traditional folk tales which in turn contributed to the development of the Norwegian language. To get an idea of just how large their impact was, they are like the Brothers Grimm of the German folktales.

We visited two churches the third day. First was the Holmen church, the principal church for Sigdal municipality.

The iron spire with a cross on top and a brass ball underneath was crafted in 1851 by renowned Swedish blacksmith Petter Oluf Westander. The ball has a volume of 4.5 gallons (17 liters) and it holds a soldered shrine containing the names of the master building, the vicar and members of the building committee. The pulpit and the font are adorned with wonderful carvings and were brought over to the new church. These pieces date back to the 17th century. The font was covered with a crocheted cover rather than a linen.

Everything is large in this church as shown by the altar and the high vaulted ceilings. For whatever reason, I did not get a close up of the altar cloth!

Nikolina found an interesting cloth in the entryway and it had a crocheted edge also.

When the church was opened November 9, 1853. Jorgen Moe wrote the closing hymn for the dedication.

The second church was a stave church. A stave church is medieval-type of a structure made of wood with a beam and post construction. Many of the churches were built beginning back in the 12th century. Only a few remain. The Vatnas church was built around 1665. It is still opened by this very large key!

The altar piece and pulpit were sculpted by Christopher Ridder.

The altar was covered with a beautiful whitework piece.

The walls were originally painted in 1679. Then came a period of time that such rich color was not approved of in churches so the walls were whitewashed or painted over. Thankfully, the layers were able to be removed and the walls restored to their original glory in 1948.

In researching this church, I found it had an interesting story about how it came to be built where it is. "King Olav was going through the land, spreading the word of Christianity. During one of his visits through this area, he and some others went hunting. At some point, however, they became disoriented and found themselves lost. They were in this valley for quite a while when the King became very tired and thirsty so he sat up on his horse and promised that if he found water here, he would build a church on that spot as a memorial. When he spoke those words, water came from a nearby rock and formed a small pool, just big enough to drink from. So they all drank and were refreshed. Olav repeated his promise and today, the church still stands.

"We visited one other church just before our boat trip down the Sognefjord in the little town of Undredal.

The Undredal Stave Church was built in the middle of the 12th century, and originally called St. Nicholas Chapel. It has been moved around and reconstructed a few times and now has a white clapboard siding protecting the original stave construction. It is currently being restored, so we were not able to go inside, but did get to look at the outside of the building while walking on scaffolding. It is considered the smallest Norwegian Stave church, with only 40 seats, still being used for services. While under repair, services are held in a building near the church. One of the rather eerie decorations from the original church is a medieval chandelier with five carved deer heads. The collection plate was very interesting as well.

Thankfully, we were able to see, and touch, the linens also. The gentleman on the left was our tour guide, Lief Underdal.

Also, the altar cloth was on display along with one of the vestments.

Leif has tried to revitalize the city of Undredal. He owns the grocery store and is connected with the Undredal Stolsysteri, giving us quite a presentation on the production of goat cheese, followed up a cheese tasting. After that he also entertained us with stories during our lunch that included reindeer meatballs. But that is something for a future newsletter perhaps!

While many people don’t attend church regularly in Norway, the churches are very important to the community. The locals are very proud of their churches and were very glad to take us on a tour and answer our questions. In fact, I heard of one tour that concentrated just on churches. I believe they visited upwards of twenty churches throughout Norway!


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