K i r k j u b ø u r | This large turf- roofed medieval farmhouse, Kirkjubøargarður, also called "Roykstovan", is considered the oldest inhabited wooden house in Europe. The Paturson family lives here and has done so through 17 generations, back to the time of the Reformation. The Faroese name 'Roykstovan', meaning 'smoke room' refers to the ancient practise of a room with a central fire and a hole in the roof to let the smoke escape. Roykstovan occupies the central portion of the farmhouse. This long rectangular space was formerly a combined living, working and dining area.
Built of coarsely hewn timber logs smeared in black tar, the farmhouse sits on top of a basement of sturdy stone walls, in part more than 2 meters thick. The stone walls clearly deviate from the outline of the wooden structure on top, and are the remains of the former bishop's palace. Because the wooden structure didn't fit the stone basement exactly, supports were added. One of them is the brightly coloured carved octagonal Gothic pillar you can see in this shot, with a dragon motif. In Kirkjubøur it is said that the log buildings came ready- made from the west coast of Norway, drifted across the sea to the Faroes, bundled and numbered.
Archaeologists believe that the upper part of the original bishop's palace, now lost, was also made of stone. It is believed that at some point during the Middle Ages, the building was severely damaged by an avalanche. It is not known when the wooden structure that stands today was built, other than that it is medieval. The timbered rooms are log buildings, not stave-built, as was customary on the Faroes. The existing timber rooms are part of what was once a much bigger structure, that included a great hall to the north. This part was, however, demolished some time in the last century.
Shortly after the Reformation, all the land belonging to the Catholic Church was seized by the king of Denmark. This was about half of the land in the Faroes. The largest piece of land was the Kirkjubøur farm, as this was the bishop's residence. The land is now owned by the Faroese government and the Patersons are tenants.