Directly across the road and a few hundred yards back stands the Stavkirke of Washington Island. The idea to construct a Stavkirke emerged in part because of the island's rich Scandinavian heritage. With a dream and a growing group of faithful volunteers the project began to raise funds in 1983.
The Stavkirke was envisioned as a unique setting for small worship services, gatherings, weddings and prayer and meditation.
What is a Stavkirke?
Stavkirke or Stav Churches are located throughout Europe, the greatest concentration of them in the Scandinavian lands. The construction of Stavkirke dates back to the introduction of Christianity to Norway in the 11th Century during the reign of St. Olav, King of Norway. Rather than using stone which many European churches used to construct their buildings, the Norwegians tapped into wood, a plentiful natural resource, and the native artisans’ ability to craft it. The specialized architecture of the Stavkirke emerges out of the construction of Viking ships. With the large "stavs" or masts, the ribs of the rafters, the shipbuilding techniques of tongue and grove joinery, and dragon heads at the "prows" of the gabled roofs; the wooden structure breathes and lives like a Viking ship.
In 1999, "topping" of the Stavkirke with its steeple completed the first phase of construction. Hundreds of volunteers and thousands of hours went into the construction of this beautiful place of worship.
Sitting in a small forest grove, a winding prayer path leads the way to the structure. The Stavkirke has become a vital part of the ministry of Trinity Lutheran. It is used year ‘round for special worship services and as a place of quiet meditation for many as throughout their days. Every year, thousands of people visit and spend a little time going back in time and listening for God's "still small voice" in the quiet peacefulness that this place provides.
It has also been a popular location for small weddings, since the chapel has a maximum capacity of 38 people. Many couples seek God's blessing on their marriage in this special place. The Stav is not a ‘stand-alone’ wedding venue, however. As Trinity’s chapel, it is an extension of our ministry, and all services and weddings are officiated by Pastor Alan. For more information about the Washington Island Stavkirke, contact us.
The Washington Island Stavkirke was modeled after the Borgund Stavkirke constructed in 1150 near Laerdal, Sogn. That church was chosen since it is the best preserved and least altered example of this style of church architecture.
The building has twelve 18-foot "stavs" or masts, all from Washington Island. Eleven are Pine and one is White Fir. There are over 9,600 four inch wide shingles on the six-tiered roof.
Exciting improvements have been accomplished. A circular parking lot just to the west of the Stav has been designed and is being implemented to improve safer parking for the tour trains, tour buses, and other guests who visit the Stavkirke every day. The current goal is to keep raising funds to eventually have the new driveway paved, as well as exploring greater handicapped access. Your gifts are helping to make this possible....thank you!
A beautiful book about the building of the Stavkirke has been written by Richard Purinton, and is available for sale at Trinity. The cost is $20, and all proceeds go directly to the Stav Parking Lot project. It is full of beautiful color pictures, and makes a lovely gift for anyone interested in Washington Island, our Scandinavian heritage, Stav churches, or Trinity Lutheran. Stop in and pick one up!