Several of the world’s finest churches are also some of the most simplistic. Stave churches blend the ascetic, pinnacle architecture of Christianity with the Nordic styles and themes of a Viking great hall to create a wooden house of religious service.

The “staves,” or sturdy wooden posts that support stave churches, give them their name. Traditional stave churches were typically erected with little more than precisely created joints and connections, with no nails or glue, using the same carpentry acumen that made the Vikings such good shipbuilders. Only stones were employed in the foundations of the constructions. Between the 12th and 14th centuries, the stave church was at its peak. It is estimated that there were as many as 2,000 of them dispersed over Europe at the peak of the phenomenon.

Not all churches, like Westminster Abbey or Notre Dame, are ornate stone-marble constructions. Some of the loveliest churches are wooden structures that appear modest at first glimpse but are actually highly meticulously constructed – some without the use of even a single nail. The wooden churches that may be found throughout Europe and Eurasia symbolise valued architectural styles from bygone centuries, and they’re also rather attractive.

Some of these Stave Churches are:

1. Church of the Holy Trinity- Belarus

In Belarus’s Gomel region, there are various wooden churches, including this vivid green Orthodox holy place near the town of Dobrush. This vibrant parish, officially known as the Church of the Holy Trinity, blends in well with the region’s blue, pink, yellow, and red churches. While the Church of the Holy Trinity has yet to be formally recognised for its historic, architectural, and aesthetic worth, it is nevertheless one of the most entertaining churches in Eastern Europe.

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Church of the Holy Trinity, Belarus_©Grisha Bruev

2. Búðir Church- Iceland

Búðir Church is composed of wood, but the most noticeable aspect about it is that it’s painted entirely black with the exception of the white door and window frames. The church, which is located on the Snæfellsnes peninsula, is surrounded by a large area of black lava rock, which seems appropriate considering its matching exterior. What we see today is a reconstruction of the historic chapel, which was finished in 1987 after the original edifice was taken down owing to low church attendance. Búðir Church is now better known as a photography subject than as a place of prayer.

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Búðir Church, Iceland_©Jacques Tarnero

3. Church of the Transfiguration- Kizhi Island, Russia

On Kizhi Island in northwest Russia, the Church of the Transfiguration is a crucial component of the Kizhi Pogost historical monument. The complete pogost was registered by UNESCO in 1990 for its architectural value, but many regard the wooden church to be the highlight due to its exquisite workmanship; it was built completely of interconnecting timber logs with no nails. The church also features 22 enormous cupolas, the largest and most central of which stands at roughly 120 feet, as well as a gilded wall with over 100 icons.

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Church of Transfiguration, Russia_©Jejim

4. Greek Catholic Wooden Church- Dobroslava, Slovakia

This 1705 church is located in northern Slovakia. In 1932, two further chapels were created, and in 2002, the entire site was reconstructed to assist in the repair and sustaining of both the timber façade and the Baroque interiors. Inside, the 18th-century iconostas, a beautiful wall with New Testament figures that separates the nave from the sanctuary, is particularly noteworthy.

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Greek Catholic Wooden Church, Slovakia_©TTstudios

5. Wooden Churches- Pirogovo, Ukraine

Pirogovo isn’t exactly a household name, but if there’s one thing the Ukrainian community just outside of Kiev will become known for, it’ll be its wooden churches. The Pyrohiv Museum of Folk Architecture (Pyrohiv is the Ukrainian name for Pirogovo) houses the most famous wooden churches erected between the 17th and 20th centuries. Other interesting architectural features on the property include houses and windmills dating back to the 16th century.

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Wooden Church, Pirogovo, Ukraine_©Skylines

6. Church of St. Nicholas- Izmailovo, Moscow

Anyone familiar with Russian architecture is familiar with the Kremlin in Red Square, but fewer people are aware of this mini Kremlin in Moscow. This could be because of the fact that it was only finished in 2007 or that it was never intended to be a defence castle but rather a cultural centre. The Church of St. Nicholas, which stands 150 feet above Izmailovo and is surrounded by museums and a craft market, is Russia’s highest wooden church.

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Church of St Nicholas, Russia_©Marco Rubino

7. Wooden Churches- Maramureș, Romania

The terrain of Maramureș is dotted with eight wooden churches. Each one is unique, and together they form a UNESCO World Heritage Site that showcases a blend of Orthodox and Gothic ecclesiastical and architectural characteristics. Each of the eight churches is made of wood and has a shingled roof and a tall, slender clock tower, both of which are typical of northern Romanian architecture.

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Wooden Church, Romania_©Haidamac

References:

  1. Matador Network. (n.d.). 9 amazing wooden churches you need to check out. [online] Available at: https://matadornetwork.com/read/most-beautiful-wooden-churches/  [Accessed 25 Nov. 2021]. 
  2. Grundhauser, E. (2016). Stave Churches Are All Wood, Dragons, and Beauty. [online] Atlas Obscura. Available at: https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/stave-churches-are-all-wood-dragons-and-beauty  [Accessed 25 Nov. 2021].
  3. ‌www.chapel-in-the-hills.org. (n.d.). Stave Church Architecture & The Stave Churches of Norway. [online] Available at: https://www.chapel-in-the-hills.org/architecture.html. 
Author

Faria is an architecture student at IGDTUW, Delhi. She feels passionate towards learning and actively looks for new experiences. She believes that the design language should be universally accessible and understood, hence, she strives to uncover hidden dynamics of design by shifting the language from visual to verbal.

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