A medieval church could collapse because tourists keep stealing the wooden nails holding it together as souvenirs.
The 13th-century Eidsborg Stave Church, in the village of Eidsborg in southern Norway’s Telemark county, is one of the country’s best preserved famous stave churches.
It is the only one in Norway where wooden nails are used to hold the wooden staves on its walls in place.
But caretaker Bjornar Christensen says the distinction has become a problem as about 100 of the nails have been prised free and stolen by souvenir-seeking tourists.
He said: “The tourists want to take something with them from a visit to the church.”
Mr Christensen says the church now feels compelled to install CCTV cameras to catch them in the act or at least deter further thefts from taking place.
“We feel we have to set up continual surveillance at the church,” he said.
If nothing is done and the thefts continue, the structure could become so weakened the walls of the church would be in danger of eventually collapsing, according to local media.
Mr Christensen added: “The walls of the church are tinder dry, so it’s not difficult to loosen a nail from its position.
“We think it’s unnecessary for tourists to take this type of souvenir with them, but we’re living in a time where people don’t always understand what they do.”
Church officials are now carrying out maintenance work to replace the missing nails with new ones.
Havard Jorge Russnes, the leader of Norway’s stave church owners’ forum, said many of the churches were being damaged by visitors.
He said: “We’ve also experienced people scratching their names or symbols into the woodwork. We think that’s horrible, but that’s what some people do to a structure that’s stood where it is for hundreds of years.”
Those caught stealing from or vandalising stave churches risk prosecution for violating Norway’s cultural heritage laws.
Around half a million tourists visit the country’s stave churches every year.
Stave churches were once common in north-western Europe but most of those that reamin are in Norway.