Type of Spiritual Experience
Borgund Stave Church (Nynorsk: Borgund stavkyrkje, Bokmål: Borgund stavkirke) is located in the village of Borgund in the municipality of Lærdal in Sogn og Fjordane county, Norway. It is classified as a triple nave stave church of the so-called Sogn-type. This is also the best preserved of Norway's 28 extant stave churches. The church is part of the Borgund parish in the Indre Sogn deanery in the Diocese of Bjørgvin, although it is no longer used regularly for church functions, it is now used as a museum and it is run by the Society for the Preservation of Ancient Norwegian Monuments.
Bracing in the form of cross-shaped trusses also appears on the walls of the building itself, diagonal beams running up the walls from the floor to about level with the top of the arcade. Further crossing, this time in a more ornamental sense appears in the cross shaped carvings with medallions in the centre, commonly dubbed "Saint Andrew's crosses" which run along the area above the arcade, in the visual "second story" that is not actually a gallery but is located where one is commonly put in large stone churches elsewhere in Europe at this time. Near these smaller crosses are the pincer beams, running between the columns to help further wedge everything firmly together. The most important bracing elements are the carved buttresses that are supported by knee joints and arc upward from the outer wall to the top of the arcade as these help to support the outward thrust on the stave walls.
Borgund has tiered, overhanging roofs, topped with a tower. On the gables of the roof, there are four carved dragon heads, swooping from the carved roof ridge crests, recalling the carved dragon heads found on the prows of Norse ships. Similar gable heads also appear on small bronze house shaped reliquaries common in Norway in this period. Borgund's current dragon heads possibly date from the 18th century, however original dragon heads remaining on earlier structures, such as Lom stave church and nearby Urnes stave church, the oldest still extant stave church, also in the Sogn district, suggest that there probably would have been similar dragon heads there at one time. Borgund is one of the only churches to still have preserved its ridge crests, carved with openwork vine and vegetal repeating designs.
Several runic inscriptions are found on the walls of the church. One reads: 'Hail Mary'
A description of the experience
This runic inscription states that it was carved by a man named Þórir into a piece of wood while visiting the church during the mass of Saint Olaf during the Middle Ages. Olaf was king of Norway from 1015 to 1028 C.E. and legally recognized Christianity as the nation's religion in 1024.
The inscription testifies to lingering beliefs in the pagan Norns, the female beings who rule the fates of the various races in Norse mythology. Here Þórir blames the Norns for his troubles, just as the characters do in the Reginsmál and Sigurðarkviða hin skamma of the Poetic Edda. One of the Bryggen inscriptions, listed as B145 or as N B145 M under Rundata, also refers to the Norns.
þo=rir * ræist * runa=r * þessa=r * þan * olaus*mess*o=æpþa=n ¶ ...r han * fo=r * he=r um ¶ ÷ bæþe= =ge=rþo= =no=(r)ne=r * uæl * o=k * il=la * mikla * møþe ¶ g skapaþu * þær mer
Þórir reist rúnar þessar þann Ólausmessaptan, [e]r han fór hér um. Bæði gerðu nornir vel ok illa, mikla mœði ... skôpuðu þær mér.
Þórir carved these runes on the eve of Olaus-mass, as he travelled past here. The norns presented measures of good and evil, great toil ... they created before me.