Castles and fortifications in Norway

Blaker Fortress

Blaker Fortress is one of the Norwegian fortresses which were constructed in the period of intense competition among the Baltic powers (Denmark-Norway, Sweden, Russia, Poland and the German states) for northern supremacy. In 1675 Gyldenløve indicated an intent to construct a fortress in the Glomma river where Blaker (a former township in Akershus) lies as part of his general program of Norwegian fortification upgra ...
Founded: 1675 | Location: Blaker, Norway

Akershus Fortress

Akershus Fortress or Castle is a medieval castle that was built to protect Oslo, the capital of Norway. The first construction on the castle started around the late 1290s, by King Haakon V, replacing Tønsberg as one of the two most important Norwegian castles of the period (the other being Båhus). It was constructed in response to the Norwegian nobleman, Earl Alv Erlingsson of Sarpsborg’s earlier attack ...
Founded: 1290s | Location: Oslo, Norway

Fredrikstad Fortress

Fredrikstad fortress was constructed between 1663-1666 by the officer Willem Coucheron and his son Anthony Coucheron following the order of the Dano-Norwegian King Frederick II. A temporary fortification had previously been built on the site during the Torstenson War (1644-1645) between Sweden and Denmark-Norway. The first commander was appointed 6 January 1662; he was Lieutenant Colonel Johan Eberhard Speckhan. Besides ...
Founded: 1663-1666 | Location: Fredrikstad, Norway

Fredriksten Fortress

Fredriksten Fortress was constructed by Denmark-Norway in the 17th century as a replacement for the border fortress at Bohus, which had been lost when the province of Bohuslän was ceded to Sweden by the terms of the Treaty of Roskilde in 1658. The fortress was named after King Fredrik III of Denmark and Norway. Fredriksten took part to the battle first time two years later, in January of 1660, when the Swedish forces ...
Founded: 1659 | Location: Halden, Norway

Fredriksberg Fortress

The Norwegian fortress Fredriskberg lay strategically placed on Nordnes’ highest point with a precipitous cliff face to the sea on the west side. Dutch Engineer Major General Henrik Ruse (1624-79) initiated the fortress construction, planned with three bastions and a half bastion on the land side and a wall on the side adjacent to the cliff. The fort was built between 1666 and 1667. It was built after and in many re ...
Founded: 1666-1667 | Location: Bergen, Norway

Kristiansten Fortress

Kristiansten Fortress was built to protect the city against attack from the east. Construction was finished in 1685. General Johan Caspar von Cicignon, who was chief inspector of kuks fortifications, was responsible for the new town plan of Trondheim after the great fire of 18 April 1681. He also made the plans for the construction of Kristiansten Fortress. The fortress was built during the period from 1682 to 1684 and s ...
Founded: 1681-1685 | Location: Trondheim, Norway

Fjell Fortress

Fjell fortress was built by the German occupation forces during the Second World War. The construction works were commenced late summer 1942, and completed so far that they could fire the main gun for the first time as early as in June–July 1943. The fort was a significant link in the coastal defence of Norway. The main gun was also to a certain extent employed in the interception of foreign aircraft raids against ...
Founded: 1942 | Location: Fjell, Norway

Munkholmen Fortress

Munkholmen is an islet which has served as a place of execution, a monastery, a fortress, prison, and a World War II anti-aircraft gun station. In the years prior to the founding of the city of Trondheim in 997 by Viking King Olav Tryggvason, Munkholmen was used as an execution site by the Jarls of Lade. The arrival of Olav Tryggvason to Norway in 995 coincided with a revolt against Haakon Sigurdsson, who was killed by T ...
Founded: 1658 | Location: Trondheim, Norway

Bergenhus Fortress

Bergenhus fortress is one of the oldest and best preserved castles in Norway. It contains buildings dating as far back as the 1240s, as well as later constructions built as recently as World War II. The extent of the enclosed area of today dates from the early 19th century. In medieval times, the area of the present-day Bergenhus Fortress was known as Holmen (The islet), and contained the royal residence in Bergen, as wel ...
Founded: 1240s | Location: Bergen, Norway

Fredriksvern Fortress

Fredriksvern or Stavern has probably been a harbor since ancient times. The name is found in written sources the 11th century and in the 12th century it is referred to as a good fishing harbor. The military activities in Stavern began with building of Staverns Fortress, part of a major construction of Norwegian Fortresses which took place from 1675 to 1679 under Christian IV. Citadellet Fort was built in the 1680s by coun ...
Founded: 1675-1679 | Location: Larvik, Norway

Kongsvinger Fortress

A rather desultory war between Sweden and Denmark-Norway, often called the Hannibal War, resulted from 1643 to 1645. Vinger was the staging area for several minor Norwegian invasions into Sweden as this final episode of the Thirty Years" War was completed. The most important consequence of this war was that the royal governor identified the need for fortifications at Kongsvinger (then Vinger) and elsewhere along the ...
Founded: 1682 | Location: Kongsvinger, Norway

Karljohansvern

Karjohansvern was the main base for the Royal Norwegian Navy from 1819 to 1963. It was the site of the Navy Main Yard, Navy Air Plane Factory, Navy Museum, Navy Schools and the forts Norske Løve andCitadellet. Naval District East (ØSD) based there was disbanded in 2002. The Museum, the Royal Norwegian Navy Band, a department of theNorwegian Defence Research Establishment and some of the Navy"s school a ...
Founded: 1819 | Location: Horten, Norway

Oscarsborg Fortress

The narrows at Drøbak, called Drøbaksundet, is a natural point for the naval defence of Oslo, the capital of Norway. The first defences were constructed during the reign of Christian IV of Denmark and Norway and were ready in 1644. The fortifications were however not involved in battle during the Hannibal War. After the war the fortifications were dismantled, and only resurrected for a short period during the 1814 war w ...
Founded: 1846-1855 | Location: Drøbak, Norway

Norske Løve Fortress

Norske Løve fortress was built from 1852 to 1859 to protect Karljohansvern naval station in Horten in Norway. Its name is a reference to the Coat of Arms of Norway. The fort is still a military area, but is today only used as an administration building for the Norwegian naval officers training school. The fort was constructed by Balzar Nicolai Garben. It has a moat which can be filled with water and was originally ...
Founded: 1852 | Location: Horten, Norway

Christiansholm Fortress

Christiansholm Fortress was finished in 1672 and formed a part of King Christian IV's plan for defense of Kristiansand when the city was founded in 1641. The architect of the fortress was quartermaster general Willem Coucheron. It was built on an islet, about 100 yards from shore. Today the fortress is connected to the mainland. The only time the fortress has been in battle was against an English fleet force, lead by HMS ...
Founded: 1672 | Location: Kristiansand, Norway

Austrått Fort

Austrått Fort is a disused coastal artillery site constructed in 1942 by the German Wehrmacht to protect the Trondheimsfjord during the German occupation of Norway during World War II. The fort"s centrepiece is a triple 28 cm SK C/34 naval gun turret from the German battleship Gneisenau, which was damaged in Kiel. The three gun turret weighs 800 tonnes and was capable of firing 38 kilometres. The last firing to ...
Founded: 1942 | Location: Opphaug, Norway

Vardøhus Fortress

In 1251, an embassy from the Republic of Novgorod to King Haakon IV Haakonson of Norway complained of clashes between the Norwegians and the Karelians in northern Finnmark. A Norwegian embassy was dispatched to Novgorod where a treaty (the original of which is unfortunately now lost) was signed to conclude a peace between the two countries, including the Novgorod tributary land of Karelia. The first fortification was erec ...
Founded: 1306 | Location: Vardø, Norway

Steinvikholm Castle

Steinvikholm Castle is an island fortress built between 1525 to 1532 by Norway's last Catholic archbishop, Olav Engelbrektsson. Steinvikholm castle became the most powerful fortification by the time it was built, and it is the largest construction raised in the Norwegian Middle Ages. The castle occupies about half of the land on the rocky island. The absence of a spring meant that fresh water had to be brought from the m ...
Founded: 1525-1532 | Location: Stjørdal, Norway

Hegra Fortress

Hegra Fortress is a small mountain fortress built between 1908–1910 as a border fort as a defence against the perceived threat of a Swedish invasion. After the 1905 dissolution of the union between Norway and Sweden, the Norwegian military harboured continued fears of a Swedish invasion to retake Norway. The fort"s guns came from the dismantled Ørje Fortress in Marker. The artillery was made up of flat ...
Founded: 1908-1910 | Location: Stjørdal, Norway

Basmo Fortress

Basmo fortress was constructed in the 1680s and was abandoned after 62 years of service in 1745. The first mention of this Norwegian fortress is in a letter from Field Marshal Wedel Jarlsberg to the King in 1683. Major General Johan Caspar von Cicignon developed the plans. During the Great Northern War it was manned by up to 1,350 men. On the night of March 9, 1716, the pyres on the mountaintops announced Swedish King Ch ...
Founded: 1680s | Location: Marker, Norway

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Beersel Castle

The moated castle at Beersel is one of the few exceptionally well-preserved examples of medieval fortifications in Belgium. It remains pretty much as it must have appeared in the 15th century. Remarkably, it was never converted into a fortified mansion. A visitor is able to experience at first-hand how it must have felt to live in a heavily fortified castle in the Middle Ages.

The castle was built in around 1420 as a means of defence on the outer reaches of Brussels. The tall, dense walls and towers were intended to hold any besiegers at bay. The moat and the marshy ground along its eastern, southern and western edges made any attack a formidable proposition. For that reason, any attackers would have chosen its weaker northern defences where the castle adjoins higher lying ground. But the castle was only taken and destroyed on one occasion in 1489, by the inhabitants of Brussels who were in rebellion against Maximilian of Austria.

After being stormed and plundered by the rebels it was partially rebuilt. The pointed roofs and stepped gables are features which have survived this period. The reconstruction explains why two periods can be identified in the fabric of the edifice, particularly on the outside.

The red Brabant sandstone surrounds of the embrasures, now more or less all bricked up, are characteristic of the 15th century. The other embrasures, edged with white sandstone, date from the end of the 15th century. They were intended for setting up the artillery fire. The merlons too are in white sandstone. The year 1617 can be clearly seen in the foundation support on the first tower. This refers to restorations carried out at the time by the Arenberg family.

Nowadays, the castle is dominated by three massive towers. The means of defence follow the classic pattern: a wide, deep moat surrounding the castle, a drawbridge, merlons on the towers, embrasures in the walls and in the towers, at more or less regular intervals, and machiolations. Circular, projecting towers ensured that attacks from the side could be thwarted. If the enemy were to penetrate the outer wall, each tower could be defended from embrasures facing onto the inner courtyard.

The second and third towers are flanked by watchtowers from which shots could be fired directly below. Between the second and third tower are two openings in the walkway on the wall. It is not clear what these were used for. Were these holes used for the disposing of rubbish, or escape routes. The windows on the exterior are narrow and low. All light entering comes from the interior. The few larger windows on the exterior date from a later period. It is most probable that the third tower - the highest - was used as a watchtower.