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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Address

Akershusstranda 10, Oslo, Norway
See all sites in Oslo

Details

Founded: 1290s
Category: Castles and fortifications in Norway

Rating

4.4/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Sina Norden-Krehahn (2 years ago)
You can feel how history is breathing if you walk through the medieval walls and the castle. The view over Oslo and the habour is breathtaking. Amazing place to take a walk and let your mind wander or just sit in quiet and observe the scenery.
Nick Morrison (2 years ago)
I enjoyed the views and the Architecture of the fortress however I was left expecting more. The voice guided tour device I was given didn't work so that may have made all the difference with my experience. Still an interesting place to visit with great views of the city.
Julia Konstanti (3 years ago)
A nice place to have a walk and take a few photos. We visited it during winter and it was snowy. The scenery was nice.
andrewas71 (3 years ago)
Medieval fortress and castle. Nice views of Oslo from here. Good museum about the home front (the resistance movement during WW2).
Sam Brackenridge Jones (3 years ago)
Great place to visit, it's free to walk around the fortress and there is a small gift shop and museum which you do have to pay for. Also has lovely views over the city and docks.
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Pembroke Castle

Pembroke Castle is a Norman castle, founded in 1093. It survived many changes of ownership and is now the largest privately owned castle in Wales. It was the birthplace of Henry Tudor (later Henry VII of England) in 1457.

Pembroke Castle stands on a site that has been occupied at least since the Roman period. Roger de Montgomerie, 1st Earl of Shrewsbury founded the first castle here in the 11th century. Although only made from earth and wood, Pembroke Castle resisted several Welsh attacks and sieges over the next 30 years. The castle was established at the heart of the Norman-controlled lands of southwest Wales.

When William Rufus died, Arnulf de Montgomery joined his elder brother, Robert of Bellême, in rebellion against Henry I, William's brother and successor as king; when the rebellion failed, he was forced to forfeit all his British lands and titles. Henry appointed his castellan, but when the chosen ally turned out to be incompetent, the King reappointed Gerald in 1102. By 1138 King Stephen had given Pembroke Castle to Gilbert de Clare who used it as an important base in the Norman invasion of Ireland.

In August 1189 Richard I arranged the marriage of Isabel, de Clare's granddaughter, to William Marshal who received both the castle and the title, Earl of Pembroke. He had the castle rebuilt in stone and established the great keep at the same time. Marshal was succeeded in turn by each of his five sons. His third son, Gilbert Marshal, was responsible for enlarging and further strengthening the castle between 1234 and 1241.

Later de Valence family held Pembroke for 70 years. During this time, the town was fortified with defensive walls, three main gates and a postern. Pembroke Castle became de Valence's military base for fighting the Welsh princes during the conquest of North Wales by Edward I between 1277 and 1295.

Pembroke Castle then reverted to the crown. In the 15th and 16th centuries, the castle was a place of peace until the outbreak of the English Civil War. Although most of South Wales sided with the King, Pembroke declared for Parliament. It was besieged by Royalist troops but was saved after Parliamentary reinforcements arrived by sea from nearby Milford Haven. Parliamentary forces then went on to capture the Royalist castles of Tenby, Haverfordwest and Carew.

In 1648, at the beginning of the Second Civil War, Pembroke's commander Colonel John Poyer led a Royalist uprising. Oliver Cromwell came to Pembroke on 24 May 1648 and took the castle after a seven-week siege. Its three leaders were found guilty of treason and Cromwell ordered the castle to be destroyed. Townspeople were even encouraged to disassemble the fortress and re-use its stone for their purposes.

The castle was then abandoned and allowed to decay. It remained in ruins until 1880, when a three-year restoration project was undertaken. Nothing further was done until 1928, when Major-General Sir Ivor Philipps acquired the castle and began an extensive restoration of the castle's walls, gatehouses, and towers. After his death, a trust was set up for the castle, jointly managed by the Philipps family and Pembroke town council.

Architecture

The castle is sited on a strategic rocky promontory by the Milford Haven Waterway. The first fortification on the site was a Norman motte-and-bailey. It had earthen ramparts and a timber palisade.

In 1189, Pembroke Castle was acquired by William Marshal. He soon became Lord Marshal of England, and set about turning the earth and wood fort into an impressive Norman stone castle. The inner ward, which was constructed first, contains the huge round keep with its domed roof. Its original first-floor entrance was through an external stairwell. Inside, a spiral staircase connected its four stories. The keep's domed roof also has several putlog holes that supported a wooden fighting-platform. If the castle was attacked, the hoarding allowed defenders to go out beyond the keep's massive walls above the heads of the attackers.

The inner ward's curtain wall had a large horseshoe-shaped gateway. But only a thin wall was required along the promontory. This section of the wall has a small observation turret and a square stone platform. Domestic buildings including William Marshal's Great Hall and private apartments were within the inner ward. The 13th century keep is 23 metres tall with walls up to 6 metres thick at its base.

In the late 13th century, additional buildings were added to the inner ward, including a new Great Hall. A 55-step spiral staircase was also created that led down to a large limestone cave, known as Wogan Cavern, beneath the castle. The cave, which was created by natural water erosion, was fortified with a wall, a barred gateway and arrowslits. It may have served as a boathouse or a sallyport to the river where cargo or people could have been transferred.

The outer ward was defended by a large twin-towered gatehouse, a barbican and several round towers. The outer wall is 5 metres thick in places and constructed from Siltstone ashlar.

Although Pembroke Castle is a Norman-style enclosure castle with great keep, it can be more accurately described as a linear fortification because, like the later 13th-century castles at Caernarfon and Conwy, it was built on a rocky promontory surrounded by water. This meant that attacking forces could only assault on a narrow front. Architecturally, Pembroke's thickest walls and towers are all concentrated on its landward side facing the town, with Pembroke River providing a natural defense around the rest of its perimeter.