St. Thomaskyrkja Cultural Heritage

  • Photo: Thor Østbye

  • Photo: Thor Østbye

  • Photo: Dag Nordsveen

  • Photo: Dag Nordsveen

Essential info

  • Destination Valdres
  • Season January–December

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About St. Thomaskyrkja

The original Thomas Church was a stave church located at Filefjell. The apparent similarity between St. Thomas Church, Høre and Borgund stave churches, give reason to date the church to about 1200. The church's status in the Middle Ages is uncertain, but it may have functioned as a regular parish church for people engaged in the manufacture of iron. The origin of the church's name may either have been the apostle Thomas or the popular saint Thomas Becket (1118-1170)

The stave church was demolished in 1808. A new church was consecrated in 1971 right by.

Remains after the stave church can be seen approximately 20 m west of the present church, where it has been close to the main road from 1793. On the old site of the church stands a stone with the inscription" Here stood Tomas church demolished in 1808".

At Saint Swithun's feast day on 2 July there was mass in St Thomas church.
In connection with the mass was market with dance and trade. People came from all neighbouring vallyes. For a period, this was one of the largest mountain conventions in southern Norway. Some came to drink and fight, some to find a mate, someone to compete on horse, some to buy or sell, and some perhaps to hear the Word of God. The church gradually gained a reputation for having healing powers if one showed up at church and had gifts with. Vang priest met faithfully up and held his sermon since the priest had regular income to tell the Word of God.

The parish priest in Slidre, Hermann Ruge (1737-1763) didn't find the market with drunkenness, horse trading and indicent behavior consistent with ecclesiastical action, and took the initiative to have the stave church demolished, which happend i 1808.


Getting there by car: The church is located along E16 at Filefjell by Kyrkjestølen.

The stave churches in Valdres
In Norway, the period most often referred to as medieval times is the era from the christening of the country, starting with the battle at Stiklestad in 1030, to the Reformation in 1537. During this period, Norway was a Catholic country. The first churches that were built had no foundation, and poles and boards were dug directly into the ground. After a while, the woodwork would start to rot from underneath, and the churches had to be replaced. The building technique, which was common in Northern Europe and Russia, was developed further and improved until the style we today consider as typical Norwegian was achieved. In Norway, one of the most important improvements was to raise the walls from the ground and place them on waterproof foundation logs known as "syllstokkar". The churches became more resilient, and due the combination of this new technique, the climate and excellent building materials, many of them are still standing today. It was during the period from 1150 to the Black Death in 1350, the new building technique was developed. Historically, we know that there have been 18 stave churches in Valdres. Still we have 6 of Norways 28 stave churches.

The old pilgrim route from Hedalen Stave Church to the St.Thomas Church at Filefjell has now been reopened and way-marked. Walking the approx.162 km long route will take 7-8 days. The road leads past the stave churches in Hedalen, Reinli, Lomen, Høre and Øye, as well as the stone churches from medieval times in Ulnes, Mo and Slidre. You can join organized tours each summer, or walk by yourself.

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