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Notes on the Geography of Norway: Oslo: the Norwegian Folk Museum

For sheer astonishment, damned few European museums can match the unpretentious, outdoor Norsk Folkemuseum. This is woodwork on the grand scale, not grand in the sense of opulence but grand in a better sense. For starters, tremendous.

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Norway: Oslo:  the Norwegian Folk Museum picture 1

The former entrance, thinking like a forest.

Norway: Oslo:  the Norwegian Folk Museum picture 2

Some explanation. The sign omits Moltke Moe, Norway's first professor of folklore. In a speech given at the establishment of the museum, Moe wrote that "the aim of this collection is to give the Norwegian people a picture of the life that was lived in Norway down through the centuries, our fathers' ways of building houses, their furniture, their tools and utensils, their dress, in short the entire environment in which they moved and lived, and about which the memory now is gradually fading. (Quoted in Anne Eriksen, From Antiquities to Heritage, 2014, p. 103)

Norway: Oslo:  the Norwegian Folk Museum picture 3

A milepost from about 1830.

Norway: Oslo:  the Norwegian Folk Museum picture 4

Old when that milepost was young: a loft from about 1300, judged by the round logs, notches, and runic inscription. There was a bedroom upstairs, along with storage for cloth; the lower floor was for food storage. Sometime in the 1700s the structure was raised onto posts.

Norway: Oslo:  the Norwegian Folk Museum picture 5

Exterior column, outrageously overbuilt from the viewpoint of forest conservation, yet, once built, next to eternal.

Norway: Oslo:  the Norwegian Folk Museum picture 6

The doorway, massive yet tender.

Norway: Oslo:  the Norwegian Folk Museum picture 7

A smaller loft and bur, dated 1754.

Norway: Oslo:  the Norwegian Folk Museum picture 8

Delicate in comparison, but the tracery of the gallery was added at the end of the 18th century, when the elevating posts were added as well.

Norway: Oslo:  the Norwegian Folk Museum picture 9

"They don't build like that anymore." Yes, but this house, a replica, was built in 1993 as a test. Call it a snakebite joint.

Norway: Oslo:  the Norwegian Folk Museum picture 10

The real thing, this time from 1650-1700. It's open-hearth, with a fireplace without chimney.

Norway: Oslo:  the Norwegian Folk Museum picture 11

Another loft from 1650-1700. It's unusual to have three stories.

Norway: Oslo:  the Norwegian Folk Museum picture 12

The most inspiring building in the museum. That's a cylindrical apse on the left.

Norway: Oslo:  the Norwegian Folk Museum picture 13

Front view. (The church was to close in late 2011 for renovations over two years.)

Norway: Oslo:  the Norwegian Folk Museum picture 14

It's called a stave church, the name coming from the whole-timber columns framing the nave.

Norway: Oslo:  the Norwegian Folk Museum picture 15

The church was moved here in 1880 and the exterior was rebuilt at that time with new materials. Only the interior has original staves.

Further detail: the church originally stood in Gol, 80 miles to the northwest. A painting of it by J.M. Prahm in 1846 shows that it had been radically modernized. In the painting, the church has no dragon-head gable ends, and it has no peripheral outside gallery. The lower roof, in other words, is missing. Instead of the belfry seen here, the church has a central spire about as high as the church itself. Apparently, the church at Borgund was used as a model in reconstruction. (For a reproduction of Prahm's painting, see Jiri Havran's Norwegian Stave Churches, 2010?, p.88.)

Norway: Oslo:  the Norwegian Folk Museum picture 16

Another angle.

Norway: Oslo:  the Norwegian Folk Museum picture 17

Apse.

Norway: Oslo:  the Norwegian Folk Museum picture 18

Shingles.

Norway: Oslo:  the Norwegian Folk Museum picture 19

Carved doorway.

Norway: Oslo:  the Norwegian Folk Museum picture 20

From another angle.

Norway: Oslo:  the Norwegian Folk Museum picture 21

Door proper, with one of the original timber staves at the far right.

Norway: Oslo:  the Norwegian Folk Museum picture 22

Two staves.

Norway: Oslo:  the Norwegian Folk Museum picture 23

Different light.

Norway: Oslo:  the Norwegian Folk Museum picture 24

Casting an eye upright.

Norway: Oslo:  the Norwegian Folk Museum picture 25

The upper part of the nave.

Norway: Oslo:  the Norwegian Folk Museum picture 26

Different light.

Norway: Oslo:  the Norwegian Folk Museum picture 27

Before the reformation, the church was brightened by candle-lit paintings of saints.

Norway: Oslo:  the Norwegian Folk Museum picture 28

The decoration was removed after the Reformation but the painting of the Last Supper were added in 1652. Later additions of windows, benches, and a pulpit have all been removed.

Norway: Oslo:  the Norwegian Folk Museum picture 29

Closeup; the apse also carries the Lord's Prayer in Latin.

Norway: Oslo:  the Norwegian Folk Museum picture 30

Does any of this tradition carry over into Norway today? Do ducks have lips?

Norway: Oslo:  the Norwegian Folk Museum picture 31

Simple country church, outside Oslo.

Norway: Oslo:  the Norwegian Folk Museum picture 32

Residential interior (from the Folk Museum).

Norway: Oslo:  the Norwegian Folk Museum picture 33

A last glimpse of that magic, not so different from the hypostyle halls of ancient Egypt.


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