Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Vik. Hopperstad Ambulatory, Runes, Dragons. Exterior, Hopperstad Stave Church, Norway

Hopperstad Stave Church, Exterior:
Ambulatory, Rune-forms, Symbols

Sognefjord itself is down the hill, where the town clusters; mountains all around. Arrive by car over the mountains for the best views and variety on the way. Once here, see dragons fly.  Hopperstad like all stave churches has been repaired, reconstructed, rebuilt on an older site if and when the original piers rotted, since the 1100's. Hopperstad has been carefully preserved, reimagined.  Where possible, I understand that original wood was used, and where it had been before. See

Many stave churches retain the old ambulatories around the main worship area.  These sheltered from weather, offered room to move.  The ambulatories also meant dim interiors for the worship areas, and any place without the openings to the outside.

Dark inside. There are no windows directly into the main worship area.

The gallery openings look inspired by monastic architecture on mainland Europe, as well could be the case. Institutional Christianity was replacing older, pan-religious forms of this new religion.

The piers supporting stave churches originally were set in the ground directly, leading to rot rot rot.  The replacements set the piers on slab stone. Waterproofing:  with tar.

Doorways from the worship area lead directly to the galleries.

Peering at the gallery wall where someone else had a flashlight.  What on earth was he taking?  Nothing there! What did I miss!

We got our own runes.  

1.  Runes:  Germanic-Norwegian forms predate 500 AD; then came changeover runes, after 600 AD, after 700 AD,  Norwegian-Danish after 800 AD, then Norwegian-Swedish 800-900 AD, back to Norwegian 900-1050 AD, and the Shorttwigs (!) Runes also from 900.  What was happening that made 900 a watershed for those forms?  Vikings had hit the Mediterranean, for one thing, see  In 1028, Danish King Canute conquered Norway, and in 1050 Vikings founded Oslo.

2.  Hourglass shape rune:  I only see that in the very early Norwegian-Germanic 500 AD.  Too early? Figure form, looks human, arm outstretched above it, and all this would take an expert. How to distinguish later graffiti from true early forms/

3.  Crosses, and triangle-base forms.

4.  Hourglass on its side, or partial form of something else?.  Is this the Daga-R from the early set (500AD?  Were these remote areas, like Vik, not subject to the latest fashion in rune design, so that an early form just kept on going?  The narrative at the Development of the arild-hauge site notes that not only scribes were literate in the forms, but also ordinary people who recorded ordinary events, comments.

5. This looks like an "m" in the Shorttwigs set, but there is an additional crossbar here.  The one waving, to the left, also has two cross-hatchings

6.  Suddenly the rune shapes are all over, on top of each other.

7.  A cross with extensions at right angles for the crossbar, not a full swastika shape.

8.  Later people scratching to look like runes, or real runes?

9.  And a large, equal-armed cross, other scratched forms surrounding.  The cross has meaning for many cultures, not just the Christian.  An equal-armed cross in particular has stood for healing, the four directions, the four seasons, add four archangels, four winds, and other magickal things -- none reministent of some crucifixion or other.  The more old ideas could be blended into a new religion taking over, would be to sidle over into mutual symbolisms, then gradually extinguish the earlier, is that so? A search is simple enough: Celtic, India, see others at

The equal-armed cross:  perhaps stemming here from the practice of the Bishop circling the church three times, in the ambulatory, and blessing various points, see

10.  Stave church of choice:  Hopperstad at Vik. 

Find the dragons and follow.  See Mythological Background, the Battle with the Dragon, and the Saga of Sigurd, at

In too many stave churches, on the main pathways, dragons that were within easier reach of reformers and conformity-obsessed institutional religionists whacked off the time-honored dragons.  Time to let them back in. Or on.  Even the shingles on the roofs are rounded to look like dragon scales. Excellent.

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