If you go straight for the Church, this interesting sculpture can easily be missed as it is hidden in the shade of some fir trees behind the bell tower. The two statues cast in bronze represent an old woman and a young boy (girl?) sitting casually on some stones and engaged in conversation. The younger person seems to be asking for advice. I may still be able to find out who the two figures represent.
This, the largest of the Norwegian stave churches, gives a very clear idea of what such a wooden church should look like. Thought to date from around 1250, but including sections of an older church, it has retained its original appearance. Some other stave churches might be just as old but greatly altered. Even so, this one has been through much 'restoration', undoing of restoration, replacement of decaying timbers and partial reconstruction - but its present appearance is commanding and impressive. For those people familiar with Romanesque churches in other parts of Europe but who have never seen the style in wood should find Heddal (along with Hopperstad, Borgund, Urnes, the Gol church in the Norwegian Folk Museum in Oslo and others) particularly interesting.
The bells at the Heddal Stavkyrkje hung in the church until 1850. They had to be moved to a specially constructed bell tower as the burden on the structure of the church was too great. The oldest of the church bells was made in Amsterdam in 1647
Looking for the road to Blefjell, we went some distance along an unmarked road towards Tuddal. It was a wide tarmac road that looked very safe and would have been, be it not for a mad lorry driver coming up from the opposite direction at high speed. We drove past him, not realising what he had done. It was only when we came to Holman Camping that we saw that one of the headlights in our car had been broken by a stone, probabIy thrown from under the wheels of that lorry. It was only the third day of our trip so we were really upset (just look at my husband's sad face in my accommodation tip). We couldn't afford to get a new headlight in Norway. Fortunately, it wasn't completely broken - it still worked and the next day my husband just patched up whatever was left of the headlight with scotch and on we went to Hardangervidda. The stunning scenery made it all up to us in just a few hours.
According to a legend the Heddal Stave Church was built within just three days. The local farmer Raud Rygi had made a bet with a stranger, who promised him to build the church if he could guess his name. If he couldn't do that, however, he would have to bring him the sun and the moon, and the blood from his heart. Raud was sure he would win, but after three days the church was ready and the farmer was desperate - he had not managed to learn the man's name. But on the third day he heard a lullaby coming from inside the mountain nearby:
Hush, hush little baby, do.
Tomorrow daddy Finn will bring to you
the moon, the sun and a Christian heart
for you to play with, my little sweetheart.
Now he knew the builder was the troll Finn, who lived in that mountain. That's how Raud saved his life and Heddal got its church. But the troll couldn't bear the sound of the churchbells every Sunday and moved with his family to another mountain.