Hidden History of North Dakota

The Stave Church: A big piece of ‘Hidden History’ in the Magic City

Good Day Dakota

One specific Scandinavian staple can be found just about two miles southwest of the Norsk Hostfest.
The Stave Church sits atop a hill in the middle of Minot and it’s pretty hard to miss, but what it represents is a huge part of Norwegian history and culture.

So how did it get to the Magic City?
A Minot doctor once saw the construction of a Stave Church at Epcot in Disney World.

He decided he wanted something similar, so he rallied people to back it, builders, architects, everyone he needed, and they all set off to Norway to study Stave churches.
They came home with the blueprints and are responsible for a big piece of Norwegian history in the heart of Minot.

“This is an exact replica of Gol Stave Church, which is now in Olso Norway,” Scandinavian Heritage Park volunteer, Sandra Starr, explained.

It’s exact in just about every way. The architecture from the outside in, including the intricate wood carving.

The carving includes both Pagan and Christian symbols, like Pagan dragons and creatures to protect the structure, crosses for Christianity, and 12 faces inside the church to represent Jesus’ 12 disciples.

It’s the fine details in things like the carvings and architecture that make the Stave Church, well, a Stave Church.

The word ‘stave’ means ‘a vertical wooden post or plank in a building’ – and staves are what support the structure.

Another unique aspect of the building – there are no nails and no glue – nothing but raw materials.
“The construction is all-natural products,” said Starr. “A thousand years ago, they would not have had nails, they had pegs. So the construction is tongue and groove siding, forced into place shingles, pegs, and dowels up there. At the top above the door frames, you can see them holding each beam into place.”

Although you may not notice each and every detail at first or even second glance, it’s more than just aesthetic, there are many historic traits that date back a thousand years ago.

“If you were sick, if you had germs, you could not come in,” explained Starr. “So eventually there was a leprosy outbreak and so lepers were told that they could not come in.

“Here is one of our hidden treasures,” she added, “it’s a door that nobody notices until they look carefully. This is called a lepers door. If you were sick, you came to get communion out there, you were never refused.”

Starr tells the Stave Church story every Tuesday when she volunteers at the Scandinavian Heritage Park.

She sees about 50 people on an average day. Some are locals, some come from all over the country, and some, fittingly, have come from Norway.

Speaking of people from all over the place, be sure to look for the Wells Faro Mystery Viking here at the Norsk Hostfest this week! Just ask people, ‘hi where are you from?’ and if you ask the Mystery Viking, then you win a hundred dollars!

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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