Hegge Stave Church is a stave church featuring eight free-standing columns inside. The top ends of the columns (today in the church loft) are decorated with faces. One of these has only one eye, and bears a resemblance of Odin. Was the reason that people continued to cultivate the old gods in secret neraly 200 years after they had given their consent to Christ? Or are these faces of pagan gods who, as a punishment for the terrible life they led, were condemned to carry the weight of the roof forever?
The church was probably built around 1216, but the baptismal font dates back to the 1100s. The church was referred to in writing in 1327. Several reconstructions have taken place, and major work was carried out in 1844. Church how we see it today is the result of restoration in 1924-1925 , where the interior got its present appearance (colors included)
Hegge Stave Church features two carved medieval portals. A runic inscription tells us that «Erling Arnason engraved these runes». The Romanesque soapstone font is probably from around 1250. The altarpiece, dating back to 1782, has its own special history. Four men from Hegge were in Gudbrandsdalen to trade livestock, but in the mountains they got caught up in a storm. They promised God that if they were to return home alive, each of them would do nate the value of a cow to Hegge Church. They kept their promise, ordered and paid for the altarpiece in Gudbrandsdalen and brought it home on a sledge. On the way, they lost Judas, but he was found, somewhat faded, when summer arrived.
Getting there by car: The county road 51 from Fagernes towards Beitostølen until settlement Hegge. Sharp left and Kyrkjevegen uphill for about 500 m.
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.