Thursday, August 25, 2011

If this is Thursday it must be postcards

The title to this post is a kind of word play on the “If this is Tuesday it must be Belgium” quote often used in travelogs. Several years ago I started collecting vintage postcards dating from around 1900. Most of them are from the Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition that was held in Seattle in 1909 and feature scenes from the expo. Other postcards are like this one of places in Norway and some are of people or family pictures that were made into postcards. From time to time I plan to share some of the cards and include a bit of the history surrounding them and/or the subject matter.

This postcard is of the Fantoft Stavekirke located just outside of the city of Bergen. Stave churches are national treasures in Norway. Most of these all-wood churches were constructed in the 12th century and the original of this church was built around the year 1150. They are spectacular to look at. When we visited Norway we went to Fantoft and were able to go inside the church.

Although it looks fairly large from the outside it is actually quite tiny inside. The wooden exterior was coated with creosote as a preservative but this treatment while protecting the wood from the elements and insects also made the structure very flammable. When we visited we noticed that the interior was extremely dimly lit and had smoky walls that smelled heavily of the candles and incense that had been burned during services for hundreds of years. The pews were all wooden, tiny, uncomfortable looking and few in number. The altar area looked like it stepped out of the middle ages, and I guess it did.

Fantoft is a rebuild of the Fortun church originally located in Sogn og Fjordane north of Bergen. In the 19th century it was scheduled for demolition when it was bought by Fredrik George Gade and moved in pieces then rebuilt at Fantoft in 1883. The Fortun church looked slightly different than Fantoft and did not have the Viking dragon-like embellishments on the roof-line. Since the original lumber was used in the reconstruct it retained the feel and look of ancient days. I don’t know if the Landaas family ever attended church in this building but it would have been a familiar sight to them and certainly a destination for a day trip out of the city. Today it is relatively easy to get to as the city bus stops within walking distance of the church.

In 1992 Fantoft Stave church burned and it was thought that the fire started from lightning or electrical failure but it was later determined to be the target of arson. Reconstruction of an exact copy was promptly started and completed by 1997. I think it rather sad that while the church has been rebuilt those who visit it today will not get that same feeling of age, beauty and history that we felt when we visited before it burned in 1992.

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