Sunday, September 10, 2017

Norwegian Chapel in the Hills, Rapid City

There is a little bit of Norway in Rapid City North Dakota, in the form of a stavkirke a Norwegian "stave church". 
The Chapel in the Hills is a peaceful place on a quiet residential street on the west side of Rapid City, near Canyon Lake. 
Its soaring roof line topped with Viking dragons looks at home among the tall pine trees that surround it.

There are dragons on the roof.
The beautiful golden brown of the Ponderosa Pine it is built from gleams with age.
A stavkirke is built on a stone base. Here the stone was also used to build a walkway, staircase and retaining walls down to the lawn. The stone complements the wooden structure and contributes to the peaceful feel of the property.

wild turkeys provided a welcoming committee.
We visited early on a weekday morning. Our only company was the docent at the Visitor Center and a flock of wild turkeys.
The Visitor Center is a piece of art in itself. 

The stabbur serves as a Visitor Center
The building is a stabbur, a traditional Norwegian grass roofed storage building. This particular building was crafted in Norway, shipped to South Dakota in pieces and assembled here.
The Chapel in the Hills is a Lutheran church built in 1969 as exact replica of the Borgund Stavkirke near Laerdal, Norway. The architects used a copy of the original blueprints from 1150 AD to guide the construction.

Staves and roof detail
A stavkirke is named for the staves, the large log pillars that support its weight. 
There are 16 of them bracing the Chapel in the Hills.

Carving on the door casing.
The doorways have intricate carvings.
The roof is made of thousands of hand carved wooden shingles.
The interior of the chapel is small and the furnishings are simple. They are also made of wood.

Simple wooden benches for servises.
We were told that the entire structure is held together with wooden pins. The only metal used in the construction was for door hardware, which is also handcrafted.
The property also features a meditation trail and a tiny log cabin museum.

Norwegian prospectors log cabin.
The log cabin was built during the Black Hills Gold Rush by a Norwegian prospector. It was recently acquired and moved to the Chapel in the Hills site to serve as a repository for Norwegian art and artifacts. We were able to see some antique kitchen equipment and furnishings as well as examples of Rosemaling and the Norwegian embroidery called Hardanger. I particularly enjoyed the Steinulfr carved Rune Stones on the Museum path.

The Dakotas was a destination for thousands of Norwegian immigrants in the late 1800's. Some came to seek riches in the form of Black Hills gold. Others were fleeing land shortages and were drawn to the farmlands of North and South Dakota. The Chapel in the Hills honors their heritage.
You can attend evening services nightly at 7:30 at the Chapel in the Hills during the Summer months.

Chapel in the Hills
3788 Chapel Lane
Rapid City, South Dakota

This stone is raised to honor our warriors for loyal service. .Remember our warriors who fought and died for their homeland. God help their souls.  

This stone is raised to honor our forefathers who sailed the western sea. They made their homes in a new land. 


  1. What an awesome find, Bonnie! That architecture is really beautiful!

  2. Its a quick stop but one that the we really enjoyed. You can feast your eyes on the beautiful woodworking and fill your soul with peace all at the same time.