Medieval castles 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

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

Sverresborg Castle Ruins

Sverresborg was built by king Sverre Sigurdsson (ca. 1150-1202) in the mid 1180s, 250 meters northeast of Bergenhus fortress. King Sverre Sigurdsson also had a Sverresborg built in Trondheim. It is thought that the fortress had an outer wall of stone and inner buildings of wood. A saga mentions that 600 men and 40 noble women lived in the fortress ca. 1207.Sverresborg was the site of several battles during the Civil war e ...
Founded: 1180s | Location: Vågen, Norway

Tønsberg Castle Ruins

Dating in 871, Tønsberg is commonly believed to have been the oldest Norwegian town and one of the oldest recorded fortified locations in Norway. According to Snorri Sturluson, Tønsberg was founded before the Battle of Hafrsfjord under which King Harald I of Norway united Norway under his rule. Tønsberg was an important trading center and site of Haugathing, the Thing (assembly) for Vestfold and one of Norway's most im ...
Founded: 871 AD | Location: Tønsberg, Norway

Isegran Fortress Ruins

Isegran is the first place in Fredrikstad mentioned in history. The Earl of Borgarsyssel, Alv Erlingsson, also called MindreAlv, had a small fortress on Isegran in the late 1200s. In the 1670s, the island was fortified with a large battery platform, Isegran tower, and later a small fort was built to protect the river. Until 1685 Isegran was the royal shipyard for the danish-norwegian fleet and during the Great Northern Wa ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Fredrikstad, 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

Sverresborg Castle Ruins

Sverresborg or Sverre Sigurdsson"s castle was a fortification built in the medieval city of Nidaros (later Trondheim). It should not be confused with Sverresborg in Bergen. Sverre Sigurdsson was king of Norway from 1184-1202. In the winter of 1182/1183 he initiated construction of Sverresborg (one of the earliest Norwegian fortresses) to provide him a more secure and more easily defended base from which to work. The ...
Founded: 1182-1183 | Location: Trondheim, 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

Audunborg Castle Ruins

Audunborg or Hegrenes-borga castle was built in stone from 1276 to 1286 probably by English craftsmen from Bergen. The rectangular building was 22 by 13 metres and had three stories. There was a store room in the ground floor, living quarters on the next floor, and a feast hall in the top floor. It had large windows and arches. The building itself had water on three sides and was thus easy to defend. It is also thought th ...
Founded: 1276-1286 | Location: Jølster, Norway

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Limburg Cathedral

The Cathedral of Limburg is one of the best preserved late Romanesque style buildings. It is unknown When the first church was built above the Lahn river. Archaeological discoveries have revealed traces of a 9th-century church building in the area of the current chapel. It was probably built in Merovingian times as a castle and the chapel added in the early 9th century.

In 910 AD, Count Konrad Kurzbold (cousin of the future King Konrad I) founded a collegiate chapter of 18 canons, who lived according to the rule of Bishop Chrodegang of Metz, on the hilltop site. The original castle chapel was torn down and a three-aisled basilica was built in its place. The foundations of this basilica have been found beneath the present floor.

The construction of current cathedral is dated to 1180-90. The consecration was performed in 1235 by the archbishop of Trier. It seems certain that the cathedral was built in four stages. The first stage encompassed the west facade, the south side aisle, the choir and the transept up to the matroneum. This section forms the Conradine church. The second stage consisted of the addition of the inner pillars of the south nave. In this stage the bound system was first introduced. In the third phase, the matroneum in the southern nave was built. The fourth stage included the north side of the transept and the choir matroneum. By this stage Gothic influence is very clear.

The interior was destroyed by Swedish soldiers during the Thirty Years War (1618-48) and reconstructed in a late Baroque style in 1749. The Baroque renovation was heavy-handed: the surviving medieval stained glass windows were replaced; all the murals were covered up; the ribs of the vaults and columns of the arcades were painted blue and red; the capstones were gilded; the original high altar was replaced. The colorfully painted exterior was coated in plain white and the central tower was extended by 6.5 meters.

The collegiate chapter of Limburg was dissolved in 1803 during the Napoleonic period, but then raised to the rank of cathedral in 1827 when the bishopric of Limburg was founded. Some renovations in contemporary style followed: the walls were coated white, the windows were redone in blue and orange (the heraldic colors of the Duke of Nassau) and towers were added to the south transept (1865).

Further changes came after Limburg was incorporated into the Kingdom of Prussia in 1866. It was now the Romantic period and the cathedral was accordingly restored to an idealized vision of its original Romanesque appearance. The exterior stonework was stripped of all its plaster and paint, to better conform with the Romantic ideal of a medieval church growing out of the rock. The Baroque interior was stripped away and the wall paintings were uncovered and repainted.

Further renovations came in 1934-35, enlightened by better knowledge of the original art and architecture. Art Nouveau stained glass windows were also added. A major restoration in 1965-90 included replastering and painting the exterior, both to restore it to its original appearance and to protect the stonework, which was rapidly deteriorating while exposed to the elements.

The interior is covered in medieval frescoes dating from 1220 to 1235. They are magnificent and important survivals, but time has not been terribly kind to them - they were whitewashed over in the Baroque period (1749) and uncovered and repainted with a heavy hand in the Romantic period (1870s) before finally being restored more sensitively in the 1980s.