5. Kaupanger stave church
Kaupanger stave church is the largest of the stave churches in Sogn and is still in use as the parish church. A little anonymous on the outside, but majestic on the inside. The church’s medieval structure remains complete and the church is considered to be one of our best preserved examples. Traces have been found of two previous churches on the same site. The oldest has been dated back to the second half of the 11th century. Dendrochronological testing of the south portal shows that the timber was felled shortly after 1137.
The name Kaupanger indicates that from the earliest times there has been a kaupang, or trading place, here (it is the same as the word chipping in English place names, incidentally). Amla Bay is a natural, sheltered harbour with a narrow entrance from the main fjord and it has been a centre for trade since ancient times. Kaupanger was an administrative centre in the middle ages. Sverre’s Saga tells us that the governor and his followers spend Christmas here in 1183. They demanded extra payment and hospitality for their stay. The local farmers’ reacted turned into rebellion and Sverre’s governor, Ivar Dape, was murdered. Sverre wanted revenge and returned with his men in 1184, razing and burning the farmers’ houses and property.
The battle of Fimreite.
At the point where the Sogndalsfjord meets the main Sognefjord, one of the most important sea battles in Norway’s history took place in 1184. Sverre Sigurdson had claimed the kingdom in 1177 and won the first of several battles for regal power two years later. The final battle took place at Fimreite in 1184. King Magnus Erlingsson, grandson of Sigurd Jorsalfar, fell, together with 1,800 of his men. Sverre thus became king of all Norway and remained king until his death in Tunsberg in 1202.Written sources also tell us that Munan, son of the chieftain of Ornes, fought against King Sverre’s “Birkebeiner” warriors at Fimreite. Read more here (Norwegian only).