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Church structures and administration and the technical requirements for building churches all changed during the 19th century. The century began with cautious church building on classical lines and ended with the highest level of church building since the Middle Ages, inspired in particular by the Gothic cathedrals.
Better production and craft techniques meant that churches acquired a lighter form and became richer in detail. The cogging joint technique was still dominant, but the timber was worked more and churches often had both interior and exterior panels. Almost 40% of the surviving churches of this period have a simple, long church design, and about 30% are octagonal and 30% cruciform churches.
Up until 1850, the parish structure changed little, so that most new churches were built as replacements for old ones. An already noticeable lag in church building was further heightened by the economic upturn and continued population growth of the mid 19th century. Even many of the 17th and 18th century churches were now too small. The new Church Act of 1851 required churches to have room for 3/10 of the population of the parish. This, and the establishment of new parishes, led to an explosion in building activity. During the second half of the 19th century, 623 new churches were built and 390 old ones were demolished.
In order to achieve this formidable task, some of the country's foremost architects, such as Linstow, Nebelong, Grosch, Nordan and Schirmer, were engaged as national advisers. The Ministry of Church and Education issued sets of drawings that local church builders could use or adapt as needed. In this way, church building helped to spread international architectural ideas. The Gothic style was chosen as the undisputed sacred ideal, but detail elements were often borrowed from the popular timber-building style of the day, the Swiss Style. The white, timber-built Neo Gothic church thus became the very prototype of a Norwegian church.