The amazing durability of its architecture coupled with the unseemly mix of Christianity and the Vikings in the structure are perhaps the main reasons why the Urnes Stave Church in Norway has been declared by the UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1989. This church, still standing on its original site Luster beside the Sognefjord, was built around the year 1150, and like other similar structures of its era was constructed with a post and beam design akin to timber framing. The timber used was as early as the years 1129-1130, indicating the long years that went into its construction as well as the intricacy of the decorations incorporated in the building.
The Urnes Stave Church is believed to be the oldest medieval wooden church and acknowledged as a merger of the architecture and art forms of the Viking era and Christian architecture. Outside of Norway, there is only one remaining medieval stave church which is located in Sweden and was built during the 14th century, approximately more than 100 years after the Norwegian wooden church was built.
Masses are still being occasionally celebrated at the church which was originally a private place of worship for a powerful family. Its ownership has been transferred to the Society for the Preservation of Norwegian Ancient Monuments.
Foreign tourists who wish to visit the church the can come in via Bergen, the largest city in Western Norway where Sognefjord, Norway’s longest fjord, is located. Bergen has an international airport with connections to and from major world cities. The county to go to from Bergen is Sogn og Fjordane which could be reached by plane, by rail or via the Rallarvegen road or through fjord cruises, some of which have organized round-trip tours. Visitors bound for the Urnes Stave Church coming in from Oslo will need to travel 350 kilometers with a choice of plane, rail, car, bus, train or boat transport