The Royal Palace was built in the first half of the 19th century as the Norwegian residence of King Charles III, who also reigned as king of Sweden and otherwise resided there, and is the official residence of the present Norwegian monarch. The crown prince resides at Skaugum in Asker west of Oslo. The palace has 173 rooms.
Until the completion of the Royal Palace, Norwegian royalty resided in Paleet, the magnificent town house in Christiania that the wealthy merchant Bernt Anker bequeathed to the State in 1805 to be used as a royal residence. During the last years of the union with Denmark it was used by the viceroys of Norway, and in 1814 by the first king of independent Norway, Christian Frederick. King Charles III John of the Bernadotte dynasty resided there as crown prince (1814-1818) and later as king during his frequent visits to his Norwegian capital.
Charles John chose the site for the permanent Royal Palace on the western side of Christiania in 1821 and commissioned the officer and inexperienced architect, Danish-born Linstow, to design the building. The Parliament approved the stipulated cost of 150 000 Speciedaler to be financed by the sale of government bonds. Work on the site started in 1824, and on 1 October 1825 the king laid down the foundation stone beneath the altar of the future Royal chapel. Linstow originally planned a building of only two storeys with projecting wings on both sides of the main facade.
The costly foundation works caused the budget to be exceeded, and the building had to stop in 1827, only to be resumed in 1833. In the meantime, the Storting refused additional grants as a demonstration against the king's unpopular efforts to establish a closer union between his two kingdoms. In 1833, Linstow produced a less costly project without the projecting wings, but with a third storey as compensation. Improved relations with the king made the Storting grant the necessary funds to complete the building. The roof was laid in 1836, and the interiors were finished during the late 1840s. King Charles John never had the pleasure of residing in his palace before he died in 1844, and its first occupants were his son Oscar I and his queen Josephine. It was soon found that the royal family needed a more spacious residence, and the wings facing the garden were extended. Before the official inauguration in 1849, the central colonnade that had been axed in 1833 was reintroduced, and the provisional steep roof was replaced by a more elegant and more expensive flat roof.
The next Bernadotte kings Charles IV and Oscar II continued to use the Royal Palace in Christiania, but spent most of their time in Stockholm. King Oscar's wife, Sophia of Nassau, preferred to spend summers in Norway, but mostly stayed at the country manor Skinnarbøl near the Swedish border for the sake of her health. Oscar II was absent from his Palace during 1905, the year of the dissolution of the union with Sweden, but his son, then Crown Prince Gustaf, paid two short visits in his vain attempts to save the union.
The Bernadotte dynasty resigned their Norwegian throne in 1905 and was succeeded by Prince Carl of Denmark, who took the name of Haakon VII when he accepted his election as king of completely independent Norway. He was the first monarch to use the Palace as his permanent residence.
During the reign and residence of King Olav V from 1957 to 1991, there was no money for renovation, something the poor build quality of the original structure direly needed. After Norway mutated from Scandinavia's poor house to its most wealthy member, the current monarch, King Harald V, could start a comprehensive renovation project. He was criticized because of the amount of money needed to bring the Palace up to a satisfactory state even if much of this went to rectify construction deficits from a century and a half ago. Since public tours began in 2002, the general public has been able to view and appreciate the renovation and splendour that the palace now boasts.References:
From 1239, Raynaud, the Bishop of Quimper, decided on the building of a new chancel destined to replace that of the Romanesque era. He therefore started, in the far west, the construction of a great Gothic cathedral which would inspire cathedral reconstructions in the Ile de France and would in turn become a place of experimentation from where would later appear ideas adopted by the whole of lower Brittany. The date of 1239 marks the Bishop’s decision and does not imply an immediate start to construction. Observation of the pillar profiles, their bases, the canopies, the fitting of the ribbed vaults of the ambulatory or the alignment of the bays leads us to believe, however, that the construction was spread out over time.
The four circular pillars mark the start of the building site, but the four following adopt a lozenge-shaped layout which could indicate a change of project manager. The clumsiness of the vaulted archways of the north ambulatory, the start of the ribbed vaults at the height of the south ambulatory or the choice of the vaults descending in spoke-form from the semi-circle which allows the connection of the axis chapel to the choir – despite the manifest problems of alignment – conveys the hesitancy and diverse influences in the first phase of works which spread out until the start of the 14th century.
At the same time as this facade was built (to which were added the north and south gates) the building of the nave started in the east and would finish by 1460. The nave is made up of six bays with one at the level of the facade towers and flanked by double aisles – one wide and one narrow (split into side chapels) – in an extension of the choir arrangements.
The choir presents four right-hand bays with ambulatory and side chapels. It is extended towards the east of 3-sided chevet which opens onto a semi-circle composed of five chapels and an apsidal chapel of two bays and a flat chevet consecrated to Our Lady.
The three-level elevation with arches, triforium and galleries seems more uniform and expresses anglo-Norman influence in the thickness of the walls (Norman passageway at the gallery level) or the decorative style (heavy mouldings, decorative frieze under the triforium). This building site would have to have been overseen in one shot. Undoubtedly interrupted by the war of Succession (1341-1364) it draws to a close with the building of the lierne vaults (1410) and the fitting of stained-glass windows. Bishop Bertrand de Rosmadec and Duke Jean V, whose coat of arms would decorate these vaults, finished the chancel before starting on the building of the facade and the nave.
Isolated from its environment in the 19th century, the cathedral was – on the contrary – originally very linked to its surroundings. Its site and the orientation of the facade determined traffic flow in the town. Its positioning close to the south walls resulted in particuliarities such as the transfer of the side gates on to the north and south facades of the towers: the southern portal of Saint Catherine served the bishop’s gate and the hospital located on the left bank (the current Préfecture) and the north gate was the baptismal porch – a true parish porch with its benches and alcoves for the Apostles’ statues turned towards the town, completed by an ossuary (1514).
The west porch finds its natural place between the two towers. The entire aesthetic of these three gates springs from the Flamboyant era: trefoil, curly kale, finials, large gables which cut into the mouldings and balustrades. Pinnacles and recesses embellish the buttresses whilst an entire bestiary appears: monsters, dogs, mysterious figures, gargoyles, and with them a whole imaginary world promoting a religious and political programme. Even though most of the saints statues have disappeared an armorial survives which makes the doors of the cathedral one of the most beautiful heraldic pages imaginable: ducal ermine, the Montfort lion, Duchess Jeanne of France’s coat of arms side by side with the arms of the Cornouaille barons with their helmets and crests. One can imagine the impact of this sculpted decor with the colour and gilding which originally completed it.
At the start of the 16th century the construction of the spires was being prepared when building was interrupted, undoubtedly for financial reasons. Small conical roofs were therefore placed on top of the towers. The following centuries were essentially devoted to putting furnishings in place (funeral monuments, altars, statues, organs, pulpit). Note the fire which destroyed the spire of the transept cross in 1620 as well as the ransacking of the cathedral in 1793 when nearly all the furnishings disappeared in a « bonfire of the saints ».
The 19th century would therefore inherit an almost finished but mutilated building and would devote itself to its renovation according to the tastes and theories of the day.