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 ...
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

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

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

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Porta Nigra

The Porta Nigra (Latin for black gate) is the largest Roman city gate north of the Alps. It is designated as part of the Roman Monuments, Cathedral of St. Peter and Church of Our Lady in Trier UNESCO World Heritage Site. The name Porta Nigra originated in the Middle Ages due to the darkened colour of its stone; the original Roman name has not been preserved. Locals commonly refer to the Porta Nigra simply as Porta.

The Porta Nigra was built in grey sandstone between 186 and 200 AD. The original gate consisted of two four-storied towers, projecting as near semicircles on the outer side. A narrow courtyard separated the two gate openings on either side. For unknown reasons, however, the construction of the gate remained unfinished. For example, the stones at the northern (outer) side of the gate were never abraded, and the protruding stones would have made it impossible to install movable gates. Nonetheless, the gate was used for several centuries until the end of the Roman era in Trier.

In Roman times, the Porta Nigra was part of a system of four city gates, one of which stood at each side of the roughly rectangular Roman city. The Porta Nigra guarded the northern entry to the Roman city, while the Porta Alba (White Gate) was built in the east, the Porta Media (Middle Gate) in the south, and the Porta Inclyta (Famous Gate) in the west, next to the Roman bridge across the Moselle. The gates stood at the ends of the two main streets of the Roman Trier, one of which led north-south and the other east-west. Of these gates, only the Porta Nigra still exists today.

In the early Middle Ages the Roman city gates were no longer used for their original function and their stones were taken and reused for other buildings. Also iron and lead braces were broken out of the walls of the Porta Nigra for reuse. Traces of this destruction are still clearly visible on the north side of the gate.

After 1028, the Greek monk Simeon lived as a hermit in the ruins of the Porta Nigra. After his death (1035) and sanctification, the Simeonstift monastery was built next to the Porta Nigra to honor him. Saving it from further destruction, the Porta Nigra was transformed into a church: The inner court of the gate was roofed and intermediate ceilings were inserted. The two middle storeys of the former gate were converted into church naves: the upper storey being for the monks and the lower storey for the general public. The ground floor with the large gates was sealed, and a large outside staircase was constructed alongside the south side (the town side) of the gate, up to the lower storey of the church. A small staircase led further up to the upper storey. The church rooms were accessible through former windows of the western tower of the Porta Nigra that were enlarged to become entrance doors (still visible today). The top floor of the western tower was used as church tower, the eastern tower was leveled, and an apse added at its east side. An additional gate - the much smaller Simeon Gate - was built adjacent to the East side of the Porta Nigra and served as a city gate in medieval times.

In 1802 Napoleon Bonaparte dissolved the church in the Porta Nigra and the monastery beside it, along with the vast majority of Trier"s numerous churches and monasteries. On his visit to Trier in 1804, Napoleon ordered that the Porta Nigra be converted back to its Roman form. Only the apse was kept; but the eastern tower was not rebuilt to its original height. Local legend has it that Napoleon originally wanted to completely tear down the church, but locals convinced him that the church had actually been a Gaulish festival hall before being turned into a church. Another version of the story is that they told him about its Roman origins, persuading him to convert the gate back to its original form.

In 1986 the Porta Nigra was designated a World Heritage Site, along with other Roman monuments in Trier and its surroundings. The modern appearance of the Porta Nigra goes back almost unchanged to the reconstruction ordered by Napoleon. At the south side of the Porta Nigra, remains of Roman columns line the last 100 m of the street leading to the gate. Positioned where they had stood in Roman times, they give a slight impression of the aspect of the original Roman street that was lined with colonnades. The Porta Nigra, including the upper floors, is open to visitors.