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The Rose or Stordal Church

Life becomes much more interesting when you just simply let yourself be led: something invisible whispers in your ear (or rather, in your heart) and you follow the thought without thinking. So, on the way from Norway's most famous fjord, Geiranger, to the next scheduled stop - Runde Island, something suddenly forced me to stop. At first glance, it is an ordinary octagonal white wooden church, not even a hint of antiquity, but the inner call was strong enough to make me explore the inside. And what a huge and pleasant surprise it was! I walked back and forth, up and down, and it was never enough. For the first time, I saw such a cheerful and colorful house of prayer. Only later did I learn that Rosekyrkja (The Rose Church) is probably the most decorated church in Norway.

The church itself was built on the site of the earlier medieval stave church (12th-13th centuries) by volunteers from the local community in 1789. The priest, Ebbe Carsten Tønder, designed the new one to fit the style of the time - an octagonal church with extensions for the armory and choir. The farmers built the stave church with timber from local forests and reused materials from the old church that can be seen on the ceiling in the armory and in the back of the church pews. There are clear remnants of old traditional measuring.

The columns, the baptismal font, the base of the pulpit, and the crucifix by the baptismal font are from the old stave church.

In 1799, the church was decorated by two traveling craftsmen - Vebjorn Hammersboen and Andreas Reinholt, who covered the walls and ceiling with rose paintings and stories from the Bible in a naive Baroque Renaissance style. The painters brought the traditional style of rose painting over the mountains from Hallingdal, the east part of the country. The painting style gave the church the name "Rosekyrkja". It was natural to combine exuberant decoration based on nature with religious scenes. The art displays many stylized flowers and scroll forms, combining blended colors and fine outlines on a plain background color. Traditional paint colors were derived from local raw materials, for example, rust red came from red iron oxide in the ground. Brushes were made of hairs from a squirrel’s tail or a cow’s ear.

The history of Norwegian rosemaling, the decorative folk painting, began in the low-land areas of Eastern Norway about 1750 inspired by upper-class artistic styles when Baroque, Regency, and Rococo were introduced to Norway’s rural cultures. At first, Norway’s painters followed these European styles closely, later more and more motifs were introduced, and so regional styles developed.

At the beginning of the 18th century, Norway's population scattered across the long-stretched lands. Some of the artists in Norway often worked as farmers during the summer, subsidizing their living in the winter months painting rooms and furniture for more successful farmers. The artists traveled from county to county painting churches and/or the homes of the wealthy for a commission of either money or merely room and board. Rosemaling was carried over the mountains and toward Norway’s western coast. Later Norwegian emigrants packed their stuff into rosemaled trunks, and so Norwegian folk art reached the New World. Rosemaling went out of style in about 1860-1870.

The altarpiece has a crucifixion group with carved and painted figures, where Jesus is surrounded by Mary and John. On the sides, there are lush carved angels which remind me more of figureheads in front of the ship serving the function of warding off evil spirits.

On the north side we find Jesus between the five wise and the five foolish virgins, then follow Samson and the lion, and finally David and Goliath.

Above the choir opening sit the four evangelists, and on the south wall, we find a blue-robed and smiling Jesus together with the twelve apostles.

In the ceiling above the aisle is a grey-blue starry sky that has both sun and moon, and in the ceiling above the rows of benches, colorful hall roses wind with a watchful face in between looking sternly down at the woman's side.

I have found this object at a very inappropriate location - under the ceiling: is it not too high? :)

Around the year 1900, the priest wanted to rebuild or preferably demolish the church. They hired Architect Jens Zetlitz Monrad Kielland. He saw the value in the old church and persuaded them to build a new church and sell the old one to the Ancient Heritage Association, which took over the church in 1908.

Nowadays the church is adjacent to a small village museum with the parson´s house from 1850, a storehouse from 1750, and the "Løsetstova", a farmhouse from the 1790s.

The Løset house was built in the 1790s and comes from the Løset farm in the Røyset valley in Stordal. The local vernacular dwelling houses were long, single-story buildings with a small window on the roof to give light over the entrance door. Two generations would share the ground floor, whilst children and servants would sleep in the attic. The house was listed in 1939; Martin Løset and his family lived there until 1943.

Every farm would have a storehouse, used for storing food, clothing, and other valuables. The storehouse is raised off the ground on large stones or logs with a flat stone on the top. The flat stone prevents vermin from getting in and eating the provisions. This storehouse has been moved from Utigard in Busengdal, and parts of it are from the 1600s.

The Rose Church is located about 60 km east of Ålesund on route 650 which leads to the village of Geiranger and Trollstigen (the Troll´s Ladder).

The church is open from 11 to 16 only about two months a year (Mid June through Mid August) for a small fee (Adult: 55,-NOK, Child: 25,- NOK, Student and seniors: 45,- NOK, Family: 110,- NOK, Groups (at least 8 .): Adult 45,-; child 20,-NOK).

However, it is possible to visit it out of season with ordered guidance in advance (450,- NOK for groups up to 10 people, for more than 10 people: 45,-/20,- NOK).

The Rose Church is being rented for special events. You can get married there for 3000 NOK :)

It has a capacity of 150-200 persons.

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