Castles and fortifications in 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

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 att ...
Founded: 1659 | Location: Halden, 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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Staverns Fortress

The construction of Staverns Fort began in 1677 when Ulrik Frederick Gyldenløve built a blockhouse with battery and palisades on a hill as part of the overall development of Norwegian fortresses. The fort was first built on Karlsøy during the Gyldenløve War (1675–1679). Fredriksvern and Fredriksvern Verft was established as the headquarters for the Norwegian Fleet from 1750 until 1758 so that the older fortification ...
Founded: 1677 | Location: Larvik, 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

Veste Coburg

The Veste Coburg is one of Germany's largest castles. The hill on which the fortress stands was inhabited from the Neolithic to the early Middle Ages according to the results of excavations. The first documentary mention of Coburg occurs in 1056, in a gift by Richeza of Lotharingia. Richeza gave her properties to Anno II, Archbishop of Cologne, to allow the creation of Saalfeld Abbey in 1071. In 1075, a chapel dedicated to Saint Peter and Saint Paul is mentioned on the fortified Coberg. This document also refers to a Vogt named Gerhart, implying that the local possessions of the Saalfeld Benedictines were administered from the hill.

A document signed by Pope Honorius II in 1206 refers to a mons coburg, a hill settlement. In the 13th century, the hill overlooked the town of Trufalistat (Coburg's predecessor) and the important trade route from Nuremberg via Erfurt to Leipzig. A document dated from 1225 uses the term schloss (palace) for the first time. At the time, the town was controlled by the Dukes of Merania. They were followed in 1248 by the Counts of Henneberg who ruled Coburg until 1353, save for a period from 1292-1312, when the House of Ascania was in charge.

In 1353, Coburg fell to Friedrich, Markgraf von Meißen of the House of Wettin. His successor, Friedrich der Streitbare was awarded the status of Elector of Saxony in 1423. As a result of the Hussite Wars the fortifications of the Veste were expanded in 1430.

Early modern times through Thirty Years' War

In 1485, in the Partition of Leipzig, Veste Coburg fell to the Ernestine branch of the family. A year later, Elector Friedrich der Weise and Johann der Beständige took over the rule of Coburg. Johann used the Veste as a residence from 1499. In 1506/07, Lucas Cranach the Elder lived and worked in the Veste. From April to October 1530, during the Diet of Augsburg, Martin Luther sought protection at the Veste, as he was under an Imperial ban at the time. Whilst he stayed at the fortress, Luther continued with his work translating the Bible into German. In 1547, Johann Ernst moved the residence of the ducal family to a more convenient and fashionable location, Ehrenburg Palace in the town centre of Coburg. The Veste now only served as a fortification.

In the further splitting of the Ernestine line, Coburg became the seat of the Herzogtum von Sachsen-Coburg, the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg. The first duke was Johann Casimir (1564-1633), who modernized the fortifications. In 1632, the fortress was unsuccessfully besieged by Imperial and Bavarian forces commanded by Albrecht von Wallenstein for seven days during the Thirty Years' War. Its defence was commanded by Georg Christoph von Taupadel. On 17 March 1635, after a renewed siege of five months' duration, the Veste was handed over to the Imperials under Guillaume de Lamboy.

17th through 19th centuries

From 1638-72, Coburg and the Veste were part of the Duchy of Saxe-Altenburg. In 1672, they passed to the Dukes of Saxe-Gotha and in 1735 it was joined to the Duchy of Saxe-Saalfeld. Following the introduction of Primogeniture by Duke Franz Josias (1697-1764), Coburg went by way of Ernst Friedrich (1724-1800) to Franz (1750-1806), noted art collector, and to Duke Ernst III (1784-1844), who remodeled the castle.

In 1826, the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha was created and Ernst now styled himself 'Ernst I'. Military use of the Veste had ceased by 1700 and outer fortifications had been demolished in 1803-38. From 1838-60, Ernst had the run-down fortress converted into a Gothic revival residence. In 1860, use of the Zeughaus as a prison (since 1782) was discontinued. Through a successful policy of political marriages, the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha established links with several of the major European dynasties, including that of the United Kingdom.

20th century

The dynasty ended with the reign of Herzog Carl Eduard (1884-1954), also known as Charles Edward, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, a grandson of Queen Victoria, who until 1919 also was the 2nd Duke of Albany in the United Kingdom. Under his rule, many changes made to the Veste in the 19th century were reversed under architect Bodo Ebhardt, with the aim of restoring a more authentic medieval look. Along with the other ruling princes of Germany, Carl Eduard was deposed in the revolution of 1918-1919. After Carl Eduard abdicated in late 1918, the Veste came into possession of the state of Bavaria, but the former duke was allowed to live there until his death. The works of art collected by the family were gifted to the Coburger Landesstiftung, a foundation, which today runs the museum.

In 1945, the Veste was seriously damaged by artillery fire in the final days of World War II. After 1946, renovation works were undertaken by the new owner, the Bayerische Verwaltung der staatlichen Schlösser, Gärten und Seen.

Today

The Veste is open to the public and today houses museums, including a collection art objects and paintings that belonged to the ducal family of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, a large collection of arms and armor, significant examples of early modern coaches and sleighs, and important collections of prints, drawings and coins.