Tomas Church on Filefjell Cultural Heritage
- Destination: Kongevegen
- Season: January–November
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About Tomas Church on Filefjell
Getting There: The church lays along the E16 near Filefjell at Kyrkjestølen.
The original Tomas Church was a stave church located on top of Filefjell. The evident similarity between the Tomas, Høre and Borgund stave churches is because they were all built in the same time around 1200. The church's purpose there in the Middle Ages is uncertain, but it may have served as a church of parish for people who had been working at the iron mine in Smeddalen Valley. The origin of the church’s name could have been either from the apostle Tomas or the popular Saint Tomas Becket (1118-1170).
The stave church was demolished in 1808 and a new church was rebuilt in 1971 right beside the original.
Faint traces from the old stave church can be seen about 20 meters west of the new church, not far from Kongevegen (Old King's Road) from 1793. At the previous church site there is a stone with the engraving, "Here stood Tomas Church, demolished in 1808".
The priest Ove Ovesen Wangensteen (1629-1660) made the 2nd of July a holiday at Tomas Church for those in the region. Including the church service, there was also dance and trade. Visitors were not only from the local areas of Vang, Halling and Lærdal but also from as far away as Gudbrandsdalen and Voss. At that time the event was one of the biggest mountain congregations in southern Norway.
The pastor from Slidre, Hermann Ruge (1727-1763), was so unimpressed with the drunkenness, improper trading and debauchery at the congregation that he tried to put a stop to it, but the congregations lived on. The church was an important place for travelers through the area to seek refuge while going over the mountain pass.
In the late 1700s, a lodge called “St. Tomas kirkestue’ was built to take in travelers. The holiday at St. Tomas Church lasted until the early 1800s when it was decided that the church would be demolished. The King approved the decision on June 26th, 1808.