In 1150, 20 years before the construction of The University of Oxford, 50 years before Genghis Kahn took reign, 200 years before the black death killed half of Europe, some 350 years before Columbus proved you couldn’t fall off the earth, and Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci set out on a path that would leave them immortalised by a couple of reptilian humanoid delinquents some centuries later, 750 years before the invention of dinosaurs and the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, 800 years before the launch of sputnik, 840 years before the invention of the Internet and the launch of Hubble, 860 years before the launch of the LHC, and 868 years before too unemployed Brits decided two sign a contract to live with each other in front of some 2 million viewers, before all this, but 80 years after the construction of the Tower of London, a stave church was built in the tiny village of Sogne, at the very end of the mighty 200km long Sognefjord.
There, the church would remain for over 700 years, doing church like things, listening to people’s problems, watching them get married, seeing their babies and their corpses, and generally not causing anyone any bother, until in 1883, when it was threatened with destruction.
Fortunately, a local Norwegian businessman and liberal politician decided the church wasn’t done yet. He bought it and had it relocated to Fantoft, just a few km outside the Bergen CBD. There the church would remain, undisturbed with a new reign of life for another 109 years before it would be brutally assaulted by a group of Norwegian chavs.
The chavs were part of the cult-like Norwegian Black Metal scene of the 80s and 90s.
They hated Christianity, seemed rather taken by Satanism, and their leaders produced extreme shriek-like metal music. They were vandalous, wrecked carnage, were associated with murders, and they burnt churches. They disappeared off the scene again in the early 90s almost as quickly as they had arrived, but alas it was too late for this little stave church in Bergen. Being a stave church it was constructed from wood, and now close to 1000 years old. That dry toasty wood quickly burnt to the ground, along with generations of life stories.
Devastated, the locals quickly set about resurrection. By 1997, only four years after its demise, the church was completely rebuilt. But, much like a restored car the original bones were long gone.
Still, being a solid Norwegian stave church, we decided to investigate.
Thor, as usual, blessed us. I can only assume that on June 6, 1992, he was trying to punish the satanistic Chavs, thereby allowing the fire to take hold.
But, despite the rain, and despite being a replica the church it is a fascinating building. Its temporary downtime aside it provides a glimpse into a period of time far removed from our own, a time when life expectancy was around 30 and Vikings and moas ruled the land.
We pondered, huddled, took photos, and then hurried back into the enticing dry light rail train, and back to the comforts of our apartment, leaving this church to stand many years more.