The Fortress of Akershus was built under King Haakon V in 1299 as a medieval castle. It has a strategical location at the very end of the headland, and withstood a number of sieges throughout the ages. The fortress has been at the center of the nation’s growth and development for 700 years, and it is now very popular as a culture arena.
A visit to Akershus Castle is a journey through the history of Norway from the 1300s to the present day. The legendary Queen Margrete – founder of the Kalmar Union in 1389 – lived in the castle in medieval times. The Danish was married already as a 10 year old girl to the Norwegian King Haakon VI, and as a young queen, she lived at Akershus Castle. During her reign, she managed to unite Norway, Sweden and Denmark, and the countries flourished under the only reigning queen Norway has ever had.
Akershus has also been a prison, with a section of it known as The Slavery because the prisoners could be rented out for work in the city. All male participants of the famous Kautokeino rebellion that took place in 1852 were imprisoned in the cells of the Akershus Castle and later died there with the exception of Lars Haeta who became famous for his first translation of the Bible into the Sami language. During the Second World War, Akershus Festning was also used as a prison and it was a central arena for the following trials after the German occupation.
A prison story by Iori Roberts, Oslo Guidebureau:
After the main building had undergone restoration, it has been used for official events and dinners for foreign heads of state. Akershus fortress is still a military area, but is open to the public daily until 9 pm. In addition to the castle, The Norwegian Armed Forces Museum and Resistance Museum can also be visited here. The fortress also houses the Royal Mausoleum where amongst others King Haakon VII, Queen Maud and their son King Olav V are buried.
Section 2—“Did You Know?”:
In 1624 there was a terrible fire and almost the entire city burnt completely down. Since Norway at that time still was in a union with Denmark the Danish- Norwegian King Christian IV rebuilt the city and moved it. Originally, Oslo was founded beneath the hill Ekeberg, today located next to the Opera house. But King Christian IV believed it to be easier to protect the city when moving it behind the fortress. Today, this part of the city center is called Kvadraturen and houses some of the oldest buildings in Oslo, amongst them the old city hall from 1641.
In Kvadraturen you find the square Christiania torv, known for its fountain with a sculpture of a hand pointing to the ground. This is the hand of the Danish-Norwegian King who supposedly was standing on the square, pointing to the ground saying: This is where the town shall be built.”
The name Kvadraturen comes from the rectangular street pattern of Christian IV’s renaissance town. He chose this pattern so it would be easier to shoot at the enemy as far as possible straight ahead with the canons of Akershus Fortress.
After having rebuilt the town the King named the city after himself. This is why Oslo was called “Christiania” from 1624 until it was decided in 1924 to take back the old city name Oslo.
The old fortress is supposedly one of the places in Norway with the highest level of ghost activity. Some people think this is because a lot of people were imprisoned and executed here. The staff working at Akershus claims that they have heard whisperings in the dark corridors and have had strange forces pushing them in the back. People also tell of screams and sounds of rattling of chains in the night. This is one of the reasons why the fortress is regarded as one of Norway’s most haunted places.
Section 3— “Don’t Miss”:
Akershus Fortress forms a unique backdrop to concerts, theatrical performances and exhibitions. Large areas of the fortress consist of open parkland that visitors can use for recreation purposes such as picnic, play ball games or just enjoy a walk on historical grounds. Salutes are fired on special holidays, such as the birthdays of the King and Queen and Norway’s National Holiday the 17th of May.
The fortress of Akershus is located next to the city hall in the city center and can easily be reached with public transportation.