Hopperstad Stave Church – Norwegian Heritage in Minnesota

Moorhead, Minnesota.

Last week we visited the Hjemkomst Center’s centerpiece, the replica Viking ship Hjemkomst. It had been over a decade since Lynn and I last visited the center that honors the dream of Robert Asp. I was surprised to discover that the center has made a home for another labor of love in wood. At the rear of the center’s property, Guy Paulson built a full-size replica of a Stave Church. This replica is modeled from a church near the municipality of Vik, Norway. The Hopperstad Stave Church, built sometime around 1130 AD, is now a museum church just outside Vikøyri village and still sits on the site of its construction almost a millennium ago. In 1998, the replica church was completed after about a year of construction. The church is supported by eighteen columns of pinewood. The columns, known as staves, built on a stone foundation and tied together at the top, the design is solid and has proven to last for centuries. In the image below, you can see the cross braces that tie the staves together providing additional strength. Wikipedia has a detailed description of the architectural details of the different type of stave churches here. It is in this article I learned much of the detail that applies to the Hopperstad Church in Norway and therefore its replica in Moorhead, Minnesota.

The church rises 72 feet (22 m) above the Minnesota site and the detailed carvings throughout the church were all completed by Guy Paulson. The Paulson family donated the church to the city of Moorhead at a dedication in 1998 after beginning on-site construction in August 1997. A detail of Mr. Paulson’s carvings is shown below.

Be sure to arrive at the Hjemkomst Center with enough time to take the guided tour of the church. The interior of the church is only open during a guided tour. We lucked out, not knowing about the church and arriving later in the day, the tours had all been concluded. When we walked up to the counter to pay our admission to the museum, a tour guide mentioned that they would be doing one more tour that day. It would be starting shortly and conclude just slightly after closing hours. A busload of tourists would be arriving soon as they were scheduled for the late afternoon visit. We were invited to join that group.

Admission to the center is a reasonable $10 USD with discounts for seniors, youth and students. The Stave Church is closed through the coldest part of our Minnesota winters (January 1 to March 31), though the Hjemkomst Center is open every day except for the five major U.S. holidays and as they say on their website, “(blizzards and floods excluded.)” The image below features a view of the west side of the church, the front or altar side.

The gallery below features images captured during our visit. On most browsers, click on an image to enlarge it and to scroll through the gallery.


John Steiner


  1. Whaaaat? Whaaaaaaat? I had no idea that was there… Never even seen it before and we just went to the Hjemkomst a handful of years ago. Cold tripping, I’m smelling what you’re cooking, that building is wicked cool. A worthy spot to plan a cruise filled with the rape and pillage of Europe. I’m sure that the mighty Odin will throw open the doors to the halls of Valhalla for such a worthy tribute… 😉

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