Akershus Fortress

Oslo, Norway

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 on Oslo.

The fortress has successfully survived all sieges, primarily by Swedish forces, including those by forces led by Charles XII in 1716. In the early 17th century, the fortress was modernized and remodeled under the reign of the active King Christian IV, and got the appearance of a renaissance castle.

The fortress was first used in battle in 1308, when it was besieged by the Swedish duke Eric of Södermanland, whose brother won the Swedish throne in 1309. The immediate proximity of the sea was a key feature, for naval power was a vital military force as the majority of Norwegian commerce in that period was by sea. The fortress was strategically important for the capital, and therefore, Norway as well. Whoever controlled Akershus fortress ruled Norway.

The fortress has never been successfully captured by a foreign enemy. It surrendered without combat to Nazi Germany in 1940 when the Norwegian government evacuated the capital in the face of the unprovoked German assault on Denmark and Norway (see Operation Weserübung). During World War II, several people were executed here by the German occupiers. The fortress was liberated on 11 May 1945, when it was handed over to Terje Rollem on behalf of the Norwegian resistance movement. After the war, eight Norwegian traitors who had been tried for war crimes and sentenced to death were also executed at the fortress. Among those executed were Vidkun Quisling and Siegfried Fehmer.

Akershus has also been a prison, a section of it known as The Slavery as the prisoners could be rented out for work in the city. It has housed many rebels and criminals through Norwegian history. Particularly well-known people to have been imprisoned there include author Gjest Baardsen (1791–1849), and the similarly idealized thief Ole Høiland. Also, many early Norwegian socialists (supporters of Marcus Thrane, 1817–1890) also spent time in the cells of Akershus.

Following the 1852 Laestadian Sámi revolt in Guovdageaidnu, all men except the two leaders Aslak Hætta and Mons Somby (who were beheaded in Alta) ended up in Akershus Fortress – the women were imprisoned in Trondheim. Many of the rebels died after a few years in captivity. Among the survivors was Lars Hætta (18 years at the time of imprisonment), who during his stay was allowed time and means to write the first translation of the Bible into North Sámi.

After the main building has undergone restoration, it has been used for official events and dinners for dignitaries and foreign heads of state. Akershus fortress is still a military area, but is open to the public daily. In addition to the castle, the Norwegian Armed Forces Museum and Norway's Resistance Museum can be visited there. The Norwegian Ministry of Defence and Defence Staff Norway (armed forces headquarters) have a joint modern headquarters in the eastern part of Akershus Fortress.

Norwegian Royalty have been buried in the Royal Mausoleum in the castle. They include King Sigurd I, King Haakon V, Queen Eufemia, King Haakon VII, Queen Maud, King Olav V and Crown Princess Märtha.

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Eketorp is an Iron Age fort in southeastern Öland, which was extensively reconstructed and enlarged in the Middle Ages. Throughout the ages the fortification has served a variety of somewhat differing uses: from defensive ringfort, to medieval safe haven and thence a cavalry garrison. In the 20th century it was further reconstructed to become a heavily visited tourist site and a location for re-enactment of medieval battles. Eketorp is the only one of the 19 known prehistoric fortifications on Öland that has been completely excavated, yielding a total of over 24,000 individual artifacts. The entirety of southern Öland has been designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The Eketorp fortification is often referred to as Eketorp Castle.

The indigenous peoples of the Iron Age constructed the original fortification about 400 AD, a period known to have engendered contact between Öland natives with Romans and other Europeans. The ringfort in that era is thought to have been a gathering place for religious ceremonies and also a place of refuge for the local agricultural community when an outside enemy appeared. The circular design was believed to be chosen because the terrain is so level that attack from any side was equally likely. The original diameter of this circular stone fortification was about 57 metres. In the next century the stone was moved outward to construct a new circular structure of about 80 metres in diameter. At this juncture there were known to be about fifty individual cells or small structures within the fort as a whole. Some of these cells were in the center of the fortified ring, and some were actually built into the wall itself.

In the late 600s AD the ringfort was mysteriously abandoned, and it remained unused until the early 11th century. This 11th century work generally built upon the earlier fort, except that stone interior cells were replaced with timber structures, and a second outer defensive wall was erected.

Presently the fort is used as a tourist site for visitors to Öland to experience a medieval fortification for this region. A museum within the castle walls displays a few of the large number of artefacts retrieved by the National Heritage Board during the major decade long excavation ending in 1974. Inside the fort visitors are greeted by actors in medieval costumes who assume the roles of period artisans and merchants who might have lived there nine centuries earlier. There are also re-enactment scenes of skirmishes and other dramatic events of daily life from the Middle Ages.

Eketorp lies a few kilometers west of Route 136. There is an ample unpaved parking area situated approximately two kilometers west of the paved Öland perimeter highway. There is also a gift shop on site. During peak summer visitation, there are guided tours available. Visitors are assessed an admission charge.