The Weird Tale of Norway's Demon Wall

At the almost-900-year-old village church in Sauherad, Norway, you'll find murals that are hundreds of years old. But look closely at one wall, and you'll see that it is covered with tiny devils and demons, crowded together like doodles in a bored student's notebook. This is the demonveggen, or demon wall. The mystery of the demon wall is not in how old it is or who did it, because those things are known. The real question is why.

Experts in historical preservation and restoration are dedicated to bringing history to life accurately. But in 1940, Gerhard Gotaas, a renowned conservator of medieval church art, completely painted over an artwork on one wall of the church in Sauherad and left it with the demons. Locals who knew the church were confused, but bowed to Gotaas' authority and reputation. It was assumed that he found and revealed what had been there for hundreds of years. Then World War II came along and the demons on the wall were ignored due to other priorities. Gotaas continued his work elsewhere with no complaints, and his alterations in Sauherad were only recently discovered. Now, Norwegian cultural heritage laws say Gotaas' demons must remain as a historical artwork of their own, despite the fact that they cover a painting that is 300 years older. Read the story behind the demonveggen at Atlas Obscura.

The article is part of Atlas Obscura's Fright Club series for the month of October.


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