Church finds

Here you can learn more about church finds. Coin finds from Norwegian churches represent our most important source of knowledge about medieval coins and their use. Certain features are characteristic of the church finds. Coins from the 1000s are rarely seen, the 1100s are better represented, but most coins were minted between 1200 and 1300. After 1319, Norwegian coins become more scarce; most of them are Swedish and later Danish and German. From the 1600s and onwards we find smaller quantities of small-denomination Danish-Norwegian coins. 

Church finds represent a different phenomenon to coin hoards. The coins under the church floors have landed there one by one through centuries. Such finds are referred to as "cumulative finds". They are of great importance as they can indicate which coins were in use among common people through the years.

Why do we find hundreds, or even up to several thousand coins under the wooden floors in churches? We can't say for certain, but evidence suggests that most of the coins were simply lost. Practically all the coins in the church finds are small and so lightweight that the sound of them falling to the floor in an old church would not have been audible. The cracks between the rough floorboards were more than sufficiently wide for the coins to roll into before dropping through the floor. Coins may have been intentionally offered at times, but there is little reason to believe that this was a regular tradition in the Middle Ages.

Church finds tell us that there was a significant circulation of coins in Norway in the Middle Ages and they tell us which coins the common, rural people were using. We are also given a picture of where Norway got its coins after the local production of coins was brought to an end in the 1300s.

The archaeological excavation of the nave in Ringebu Stave Church uncovered coins and other objects from approximately 1180 and up to the present. The entire floor of the old stave church was removed. The coins were spread out under the whole floor, but certain accumulations were found at the entrance to the quire and along the southern row of pillars.