All of the stave churches (over 1000) were built during a 200 year period in the first half of the 12th century until the Black Death paralysed the whole community in 1349. Essentially, they tried to copy what was built elsewhere in stone. They had a lot of pine trees available and although they also have a lot of rock - they used the pine for everything including their houses. Only 28 churches survive.
This is much smaller than the Heddal church and quite black. A large visitor centre nearby had a good display but none so far explained the black look of the churches. A poor young man on guard at the church gate had to finally tell us the story.
Tar is applied about every 5 years. Chop up some pine trees, place in a large container in a deep pit, cover with moss and dirt and light a fire on top. Keep burning for a number of days. Resin from the heated pine melts into a bowl in the pit. Cook resin again and hey presto - tar! Apply to church. Unfortunately, they are not so clever (or maybe patient) as they used to be and now the tar drips off the church (see photo). This church was last coated in 2012 and the tar is still soft.