Our church in past and present
The site of the present church may once have been occupied by a heathen
temple. In 1023 King Olav Haraldson visited Voss to convert the people
to Christianity. Tradition says that he raised the great stone cross
still to be seen on the South of the Church, probably the first Christian
place of worship at Voss.
Simultaneously the temple may have been pulled down and arrangements
made for the erection of a church. The first church here was build of
wood. In a royal letter dating from 1271 king Magnus Lagabote expressed
his satisfaction that the parishioners were replacing it by a stone
church, and urges the continuation and completion of this task. When
finished the church was dedicated to Saint Michael (1277)
The church was built in early Gothic style, the arches being just slightly
pointed. It is one of the oldest Norwegian country churches built in
this style. The walls are between 4.5 and 7.5 ft. thick. The wooden
octagonal steeple is of a style not found elsewhere in Norway. It seems
to have been built in the Middle Ages. The shaping of the huge timbers
was done with axes only, and not saws. They were joined together with
wooden pegs. After many centuries the steeple is as sound as any wooden
structure can be.
There is very little medieval furniture. This is partly accounted for
by the Lutheran Reformation of the Norwegian church in 1536.
The stone alter is as old as the church itself. But the Coptic triptych
(alter-piece with two folding doors) was transformed in the seventeenth
century into a Baroque reredos, with a painting in the style of Rubens
made by a Norwegian artist, Elias Figenschoug. The side panels of the
triptych have been lost, but the hinges remain, and so does its base,
or predella, with representations of Christ in Gethsemane. From the
chancel a staircase led through the wall out to a door opening onto
a gallery, but in the beginning probably to a loft.
The pulpit, which is in the Renaissance style, with representations
of the Apostles on the panels, probably came soon after the Reformation
. In the years 1696-98 the beautifully carved rood-screen at the entrance
to the chancel was set up and, at about the same time the ceilings were
decorated with clouds and angels, and the paneling along the chancel
walls was adorned with representations of patriarchs and kings of ancient
Israel, and with scenes from the life of Christ.
The brass chandelier in the nave is Dutch. It was cast by Harbert van
der Harst in Deventer in 1614. The one in the chancel is not as old,
but both were presented to the
Church before 1750.
Suspended from the chancel roof there is a carved angel carrying the
baptismal basin, which is lowered for each Christening. This angel superseded
a stone font in 1820.
The stained-glass windows were provided in 1923 for the nine-hundredth
of the conversion to Christianity of Voss. For the same occasion a new
organ was built. The console was later exchanged for one of three electro-pneumatically
worked manuals with twenty-six stops.
A chalice dated from about 1510 is used at Holy Communion, and a copy
of king Frederik 11s Bible (1589) is kept in the vestry.
In 1875-76 the church, which had partly fallen into decay, had to be
thoroughly repaired. Much of its precious old furniture was then replaced,
and all woodwork was painted yellow. The new appearance of the church
was, however, never really approved by the congregation. A radical restoration
was prepared in the early1920s. This work was, in the main, completed
in 1953. The pulpit and chancel screen, which had been stored in museums
and farms, have now been recovered. The paintwork of the ceilings has
been restored by the aid of beams and boards where the old pictures
were partly preserved.
Further, the wall paintings of the chancel have been uncovered. The
plastering has been removed from the inside and the outside of the stone
walls. The gallery and the pews are modeled upon those seen in an old
interior of this church painted by Adolph Tidemand. We are still filled
with wonder that our old church escaped the bombs of the last war which
laid most of the town in ruins, and we are truly thankful that the house
of God has recovered its past glory.