Sitting on a hill on the fringes of Rapid City, South Dakota, the Chapel in the Hills is an exact replica of the Borgund Stavkirke, a church built around A.D. 1150 in Norway. How did this church in the Black Hills of South Dakota originate, thousands of miles from Norway?
This unusual church was originally built for the ‘Lutheran Vespers’ radio program. This area of South Dakota was home to many Lutherans who trace their lineage to Scandinavia, and so the Norwegian-style church was honoring that heritage. The chapel is an exact replica of the famous Borgund Stavkirke of Laerdal, Norway. The Borgund Stavkirke is considered the most completely preserved stave church still standing in Norway.
The South Dakota Chapel in the Hills sits on 30 acres of forest and has a small prayer walk winding up the hill behind it. Also on the property are a traditional Norwegian grass-roofed house that accommodates a gift shop and a log cabin museum with historical displays.
The chapel is breathtaking with its towering structure of wood, including intricate designs inside and out. The carvings were a partnership between a master woodcarver in Norway and another local craftsman from the Black Hills. The architectural plans for the building were provided by the Norwegian Department of Antiquities.
The chapel was dedicated on July 6, 1969, and it served as the home of Lutheran Vespers until 1975 when the radio program was moved to Minneapolis. A nonprofit organization took over operation of the Chapel in the Hills and operates it to this day.
Currently, local Lutheran pastors serving Lutheran churches in the Rapid City area preside over the evening worship services and weddings. Today, more than 25,000 people each year visit the chapel. The building hosts numerous weddings and vow renewals, along with other special services.
The church is located at 3788 Chapel Ln. in Rapid City, South Dakota. For more information about its services and visiting hours, visit www.chapel-in-the-hills.org.