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by Local Secrets
New York, New York
March 18, 2008
Rodeo, New Mexico
September 3, 2004
I was fascinated by the combination of ancient Norse paganism and Christianity all in the same place of worship. The Scandinavian countries were among the last of Europe to be converted to Christianity, beginning in 829, when a missionary was sent to Sweden. By the end of the 10th Century, Christianity was gaining a foothold, but not without struggle and periodic resurgences of old ways of worship. Borgund Church in Norway, of which Stavkirke is an exact reproduction, was built in 1150 and is the best preserved of the 30 remaining stave churches in that country.
The ingenious stave construction method was developed in response to rotting foundations of earlier Norwegian churches. The main support structure is vertical, rather than horizontal posts, and always atop a stone foundation. Cross braces and bent arches between the posts enhance stability. The wooden planks are dovetailed, pegged and wedged to allow for expansion and contraction during extreme changes in temperature and humidity. To learn more about stave churches, visit Norway.org.
Stavkirke was built by Arendt Dahl in 1969 in memory of his parents, Reverend and Mrs. Anton Dahl, pioneer Lutheran pastor. Vespers are still held every evening during summer at Stavkirke.
All sorts of Scandinavian furniture, tools, objects, cookware, musical instruments, and even manikins dressed in traditional Norwegian clothing are found in the Howard Nielsen cabin. Nielsen, a Norwegian, came to the Black Hills to prospect gold in 1876. His Palmer Gulch cabin was transported to Stavkirke grounds in 1987.
A sod-roofed stabbur serves as visitor center and gift shop. Stabburs are traditional Norwegian storehouses for cheeses, dried meats, and other food items. They are built on raised foundations to prevent rodent infestation. Imported Scandinavian goods (including lovely flower-painted Rosemaling plates), and local souvenirs are sold here.
From journal Slowing Down in Rapid City