Use this URL to cite or link to this record in EThOS:
Title: A comparison of stave churches and pre-Christian cult-houses : their origins and influences
Author: Tompsen, Lyle
ISNI:       0000 0004 8509 5925
Awarding Body: Durham University
Current Institution: Durham University
Date of Award: 2020
Availability of Full Text:
Access from EThOS:
Access from Institution:
This study investigates the origins of the stave churches of Norway and their relationship to Norse pre-Christian cult-houses. The origin of the Norwegian stave church phenomenon remains enigmatic and much debated. Because of their distinct shape and unique decorative elements, they are often interpreted as a developed Christian architectural form based upon pre-Christian Norse cultic structures. Historically, no pre-Christian cult structures had been recovered archaeologically, and thus no definitive comparison was possible. Recent discoveries have forced a revision of this situation. This thesis employs an interdisciplinary approach to investigate and compare what excavators identify as pre-Christian ritual structures with the surviving corpus of Norwegian stave churches. Christian and pre-Christian sacred enclosures are examined from the beginning of the Viking era in the 8th century, to the end of the stave church era (c. 1350, the year that the Black Death decimated Norway). Data drawn from archaeological excavations, comparative historical architecture, stylistic evidence, and historical documentation across the North Sea region and Europe is interrogated to determine the influences on Norwegian stave church architecture. For comparative purposes, pre-Christian cult structures from Scandinavia are analysed using a combination of archaeological evidence, historical documentation and literary evidence. The results demonstrate that Norse pagan cultic structures were of two types, dedicated cult-houses and multi-purpose halls. These structures were built using construction methods and architectural patterns present in vernacular and aristocratic building styles. Stave churches were constructed employing architectural styles influenced by the Roman church, often driven by liturgical necessity. Each of the existing stave church styles can be traced to European predecessors and has contemporaneous non-Norwegian examples. The early Norwegian timber churches contemporaneous with pre-Christian cult structures were based on an insular two-cell church commonly found across northern Europe. Thus the pagan and Christian temple existed contemporaneously as parallel but separate architectural traditions.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available