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Discover unique old churches in these 3 places

Discover unique old churches in these 3 places

It’s that time of the year when spring or summer getaways are planned.

But instead of following the crowds to a beach consider a trip centered on religious heritage, including unique architecture and art on par with the finest museums.

The original 12th century crucifix inside the Urnes stave church. | Dennis Lennox

Norway

This Nordic country isn’t known for its old churches, but with 28 wooden medieval-era churches it should be.

Called stave churches, the name comes from the construction method of erecting load-bearing posts — staves in Norwegian — upon rocks or sill frames.

Kaupanger’s 12th century stave church features a 16th century baroque interior. Other notable stave churches are found in Borgund and Urnes, the latter of which dates to the year 1130 and includes its original crucifix.

Most of the stave churches are located in Norway’s Fjord region, which means flying into Bergen or Trondheim and renting a car.

St. Margaret’s Church is Norfolk, England, is one of the finest examples of medieval round tower churches. | Dennis Lennox

Norfolk and Suffolk, England

East Anglia, as the region encompassing the historic English counties of Norfolk and Suffolk is called, has over 150 medieval churches with round towers. By contrast, this style is incredibly rare elsewhere in England.

Many remain active houses of worships. Others are so-called redundant churches in the care of the Churches Conservation Trust.

One of the finest specimens of round tower churches is St. Margaret’s Church, which is also known for its nearly perfect Norman architecture. The architectural style, also called Romanesque, came to England after the Norman Conquest in 1066.

You will want to fly into London’s Heathrow Airport (about three hours away). Don’t worry: Driving on the other side of the road isn’t that difficult.

Grace Church, also known historically as the York-Hampton Parish Church, in Yorktown, Virginia, was built in 1697. | Dennis Lennox

Virginia

As one of the original 13 colonies Virginia has numerous colonial-era churches.

Most belong to Episcopalian congregations that date to when the Church of England was the established church of colonial Virginia.

Among the notable Episcopal churches are Ware Church and Abingdon Church, both about an hour by car from Norfolk’s airport; Bruton Parish in Colonial Williamsburg; Grace Church, near the Yorktown battlefield where American independence was won in 1781; Virginia Beach’s Old Donation Church; and St. John’s Church in Hampton, which still uses early 17th century communion silver.

All of these churches are within driving distance of each other, which makes for a nice weekend getaway. Be sure to make arrangements ahead of time as some churches aren’t regularly open outside of services. Norfolk’s airport has frequent service on multiple airlines.

By the way, many of the place names can also be found in East Anglia. This is because a good number of Virginia’s earliest settlers after the 1607 establishment of Jamestown emigrated from Norfolk and Suffolk.

Spires and Crosses is a weekly travel column. Follow @dennislennox on Twitter and Instagram.

Dennis Lennox writes about travel, politics and religious affairs. He has been published in the Financial Times, Independent, The Detroit News, Toronto Sun and other publications. Follow @dennislennox on Twitter.

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