Wooden rainscreens and Santa Claus both have centuries old roots in Norway. Both have stood the test of time. Both are sacred to those who believe.
The Rainscreen wall construction technique dates back to medieval Norway. Some of the oldest and still existing examples of this technique are evident in Norwegian stave churches.
A stave church is a medieval wooden Christian church building. Once common all over Northern Europe, most of the surviving stave churches are in Norway. In Norway alone it is believed there were close to 2000 wooden churches constructed. 28 historical stave churches are still standing in Norway.
How can wooden structures remain intact for so many centuries in the harsh climate of Northern Europe? The answer is a simple yet ingenious wall construction method – “stave churches had outer galleries running around the whole perimeter, loosely connected to the plank walls. They probably served to protect the church from a harsh climate” – a rainscreen.
The most famous and well preserved example of a Norwegian Stave church is the Borgund Stave church (pictured above). If a voyage to Norway is not in your foreseeable future you can visit a replica of the church at Borgund in Rapid City, South Dakota and a replica of the Hopperstad stave church (Vik, Norway) in Moorhead, Minnesota.
The Uvdal Stave church was constructed out of pine which has been dendrochronologically dated to the mid-twelfth century. It is located in the valley Numedal in Norway. The exterior wooden walls date to 1760 and ornate wooden pews within the nave are from the year 1624. The building is protected and cameras are not allowed inside. Take a look at the impressive and historic interior by viewing this rare video, shot with permission from the churches owners, on YouTube http://youtu.be/EC6UGPmeZfQ .
Lorentz Dietrichson wrote of weathering a storm within a Norwegian Stave Church “In the Afternoon the Weather changed, and suddenly an entire storm raged outside. It creaked in the old church Walls, as if they were going to fall apart, it was as if each and every plank in the stave construction would slide out of its Placement, break its very framework of Masts and Sills and bury everything beneath the vacillating Columns… but little by little the raging wind blew more fitfully, became constant…although the storm increased rather than declined, soon no sound was to be heard in the Church Walls, wherein the entire Structure had settled and was now steeled and strengthened in the midst of the storm.”
Sinterklass is the basis for Santa Claus. Sinterklass is an elderly, stately and serious man with white hair and a long full beard. He wears a long red cape. He carries the big book of Saint Nicolas that tells whether each child has been good or naughty in the past year.
Historical lore of modern day Santa Claus is evident in many cultures throughout the world. Saint Nicholas was not Norwegian; the historical and religious figure was of Greek decent.
Saint Nicholas is the patron Saint of Sailors and it was Dutch sailors who came to the New World and would not give up St. Nicholas as their patron; when they settled, particularly around the New York area, their nickname Santer Klause became the name we know as Santa Claus.
The legend of Santa flying over rooftops and entering through chimney’s was born of Dutch tales of Sinterklass. Where North American’s have elves, Norwegians have “Black Peter” and tell a tale in which “…The names of naughty children are recorded in a large book which Black Peter keeps handy for Sint Nicolaas. Therefore the children will behave and be nice and sweet during this time. They also know quite well that Black Peter carries a rod with him as well as a huge burlap sack, large enough for naughty children to be taken along to Spain.”
Not only is Sint Nicolaas renowned for knowing everything that goes on during the year but also for his ability to do some amazing things. He rides his horse over the rooftops and eavesdrops at the chimneys. Black Peter even enters homes through chimneys at night and takes the horse’s food from the shoes and clogs to exchange it for candy and other treats.”
Where are They Now?:
Santa Claus – In 1993, a grave was found on the small Turkish island of Gamile, east of Rhodes, which historians believe is the original tomb of St. Nicholas. On December 28th, 2009 the Turkish Government announced that it would be formally requesting the return of the skeletal remains of Saint Nicholas be returned to Turkey from the Italian Government.
Stave Churches of Norway – Sadly, Since 1992, 22 churches have been destroyed by arson. Almost all the burnings have been attributed to a small but zealous group of Satanist-nationalists and their followers. 28 remain standing.
Stave Church Construction Method Illustration: