THE GOL STAVE CHURCH MODEL
At one time there were approximately 800 to 1000 stave churches (stavkirker) in Norway, however, only 30 original stave churches remain today. Several have been moved, re-erected and preserved at new locations. Replicas of some have been built in the United States.
The original Gol Stave Church in Norway was a tiny triple level basilica, dating back to the early 1200's AD. Gol is in the valley of Hallingdal in Buskerud County, Norway.
During the Lutheran reformation, 1536-37, the King took possession of all churches in Norway. In 1723 King Fredrick IV sold Gol and many other churches together with the associated lands to raise funds to pay for the Nordic wars. Each church owned much real estate, which was the principle attraction for one to purchase a church. Two persons, Ola O. Barkegård, a farmer, and his friend, Anders Bøyesen, the Nes Parish priest, purchased Gol and three other churches.
By 1880, the Gol Stave Church became one of the churches destined for demolition. It had become too small for the numbers of people in the parish. It was rescued from demolition by the “Fortidmindesmerkeforeningen” (an association for preservation of old structures in Norway). They dismantled the church and moved it to Oslo for storage.
Finally, in 1885, a few enthusiastic men, with the permission of King Oscar II, re-erected the Gol Stave Church on his Royal Farm on Bygdøy, an island in the Oslo Fjord. Today, this island is dedicated to the Norwegian Folkesmuseum where there are complete farmsteads, Viking ships, the Froya which Amundson sailed to the South Pole, the Kon-Tiki, tapestries and many other antique items.
Originally, the Gol Stave Church had a much different appearance. There was no cloister around the exterior of the Nave, Chancel and Apse. This was added at the time of re-assembly and is similar to the cloister around the Borgund Stave Church.
Two full-size replicas of the Gol Church have been built—one at Gol in Hallingdal (completed 1994) and another in Minot in North Dakota (completed 2001). A partial replica was built at the Epcot Center in Florida, USA.
Anders Anderson of Edmonton prepared the architectural drawings for the Gol Stave Church replica that now stands in Minot. Dr. Myron Peterson spearheaded the organization of the group that raised funds for construction of this replica. He alone contributed $350,000 in cash and made seven or eight trips to Norway to take pictures and confirm measurements so that accurate architectural drawings could be prepared. The contractor, Don Guida, born in Norway and living near Rapid River in Minnesota, was responsible for building the structure.
In the fall of 2002, Wayne Nordstrom, a member of Sons of Norway Solglyt Lodge in Edmonton, was interested in having a scale model of the Gol stave church built for display. Plans to build a model of the church were put in place and key people were contacted. It was decided to build the model at a scale of 1/15th the size of the original. The drawings that Anders Anderson had prepared for the replica of the Gol stave church that now stands at Minot were used for building the model.
A number of people have contributed their time and effort to work on the church model. Dennis Douglas, Wayne Nordstrom and Anders Anderson have contributed the most time. Other significant contributors included Stan Johnson, Jo Storhaug, Nathan Schmidt, Bob Ardiel, Ryan Ardiel, Bjarne Myhre, and John Stensland. Cliff Hansen of the Sons of Norway Lodge in Red Deer built the two chairs and the altar table for the sanctuary. The dolls were contributed by Lynn Douglas and the candelabra by Valerie Vale. Without everyone’s efforts, the model would not have been completed.
The church modelbuilders generally met one evening each week over the course of several years during the winter months and worked on the model in Dennis Douglas’ garage in Edmonton. An estimated 2100 hours of time has gone into building the model and its protective plexiglass case.
An early stage of the model was shown at the Scandinavian Showcase event that was held in Edmonton as part of the “feature country” component of Klondike Days from July 17th-26th in 2003. At that event, the model drew considerable attention.
The stave church model has also drawn the attention of a number of people and organizations in Alberta. Access TV (Channel 9) interviewed the builders and videotaped the church in 2004. They aired a segment on May 14, 2004.
Over the past several years the model has been displayed at venues such as:
- Norwegian Lafthus Society in Red Deer – May 2004, May 2005.
- Sons of Norway Lodge in Red Deer, October 2004.
- Sons of Norway Lodge in Olds, January 2005.
- Sons of Norway Lodge in Edmonton – various events of the Lodge.
- Folkfest in Saskatoon, SK – August 2005.
- Sons of Norway Sports Weekend in Calgary, March 2006.
- Torskeklubben of Edmonton – on three occasions (2005, 2006, 2008).
- Skudesness Lutheran Church (100th anniversary), June 4, 2006.
- Trondhjem Lutheran Church (100th anniversary), June 25, 2006.
- Heritage Celebration at the Holden Community Hall, May 27, 2007.
- The Lougheed Community Fair, August 11, 2007.
- Bethel Lutheran Church - Ryley (100th anniversary), August 17, 2008
- Sons of Norway Lodge in Kelowna, BC – October 15, 2008
- Sons of Norway Sports Weekend in Edmonton, March 2009.
- Sons of Norway District IV Convention in Edmonton, June 15-16, 2012.
- Norwegian Laft Hus (25th anniversary) in Red Deer, August 17-18, 2013
In 2012, a photo of the model was incorporated into the lodge banner of the Sons of Norway Solglyt Lodge in Edmonton. That banner is used at various events of the lodge.
In January 2017, the stave church model was moved to the Augustana Campus in Camrose and is housed in the library that is located on campus. Prior to the move, an agreement was signed by two representatives of Augustana as well as two representatives of the “builders of the model.” The agreement, which needs to be renewed annually, outlines details relative to how the church model is to be managed. Augustana has been very supportive in having the model housed in their library. They feel it is a good fit for some of their programs and initiatives which they have on campus.
Those who have seen the model of the stave church (stavkirke) have been impressed by it and it has served to promote a greater awareness of Norwegian culture.