Book Series Studies in the Visual Cultures of the Middle Ages, vol. 18

Urnes Stave Church and Its Global Romanesque Connections

Kirk Ambrose, Griffin Murray, Margrete Syrstad Andås (eds)

  • Pages: 480 p.
  • Size:225 x 280 mm
  • Illustrations:7 b/w, 230 col., 2 maps b/w
  • Language(s):English
  • Publication Year:2022

  • ISBN: 978-2-503-59451-4
  • Hardback
  • Available

This book situates the art and architecture of the stave church of Urnes within a global perspective and aims to reinvigorate scholarly interest and debate in one of the world’s most important churches.


“Thankfully, the copious illustrations of this new book are the next best thing, since they combine exemplary detailed photographs with evocative views of its situation: in one particularly memorable case against the wintry backdrop of the fjord and snowy hills beyond.” (David Ekserdjian, in The Art Newspaper 4/09/2022)

“The book is extremely well produced and exquisitely illustrated throughout (…)The publication will particularly appeal to church archaeologists and to art and architectural historians given its intensive focus on the church’s decorative aspects. But the depth and quality of commentary and discussion on the meanings underlying the motifs, on Urnes’ wide-ranging and pan-European cultural, artistic and ideological connections, and the place of both Urnes and Norway in the wider 11th- and 12th-century world will make it relevant to any medieval archaeologist interested in understanding how people, ideas and art moved across the western world in those centuries.” (ALEKSANDRA McCLAIN, in Medieval Archaeology, 67/2, 2023, p. 512)


Urnes is the oldest and best known of the Norwegian stave churches. Despite its rich sculptural program, complex building history, fine medieval furnishings, and UNESCO World Heritage Site status, Urnes has attracted scant scholarly attention beyond Scandinavia. Broadly speaking, the church has been seen to exemplify Nordic traditions, a view manifest in the frequent use of “Urnes style” to designate the final phase of Viking art. While in no way denying or diminishing the importance of local or regional traditions, this book examines Urnes from a global perspective, considering how its art and architecture engaged international developments from across Europe, the Mediterranean, and Central Asia. In adopting this alternative approach, the articles collected in this volume offer the most current research on Urnes, published in English to reach a broad audience. The aim is to reinvigorate academic interest and debate in not only what is one of the most important churches in the world, but also in the rich cultural heritage of Northern Europe.


Acknowledgments - Contributors and Editors

Kirk Ambrose, Margrete Syrstad Andås, and Griffin Murray

List of Illustrations - The Plates

Part One: Situating Urnes

Chapter 1 Urnes Stave Church: A Monument Frozen in Time?
Øystein Ekroll
Chapter 2 Urnes: Some Current Research Issues
Leif Ank er
Chapter 3 The Landscape of Urnes: Settlement, Communication, and Resources in the Viking and Early Middle Ages
Birgit Maixner

Part Two: The Eleventh-Century Church

Chapter 4 The Decoration of Buildings in the North in the Late Viking Age: A Tale of Bilingualism, Code-Switching, and Diversity?
Margrete Syrstad Andås
Chapter 4A Appendix: Alphabetical List of Fragments from Eleventh-Century. Decorated Buildings in the North
Margrete Syrstad Andås
Chapter 5 The European Significance of Urnes: An Insular Perspective on Urnes and the Urnes Style
Griffin Murray
Chapter 6 “Who is this King of Glory?”: The Religious and Political Context of the Urnes Portal and West Gable
Margrete Syrstad Andås

Part 3: The Twelfth-Century Church

Chapter 7 Soft Architecture: Textiles in the Urnes Stave Church
Ingrid Lunnan Nødseth
Chapter 8 Trueing the Capitals at Urnes
Kirk Ambrose
Chapter 9 Norse Encounters with the Mediterranean and Near Eastern Worlds in the Capitals of Urnes
Kjartan Hauglid
Chapter 10 Plants, Beasts, and a Barefoot Cleric
Elizabeth den Hartog
Chapter 11 Monstrosity, Transformation and Conversion: The Program of the Urnes Capitals in Its European Context
Thomas E . A . Dale


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