Sunday, May 13, 2007

The Tønsberg Castle Hill

When you arrive in Tønsberg, you will see a grey tower on a hill overlooking the city. The tower was erected to the celebration of the citys first millennium in 1871. This was the site of Tønsberghus fortress, one of the largest military strongholds built in Scandinavia during medieval times. It was constructed from the 12th to the 14th century. It fell into disrepair in late medieval times, and was totally destroyed by an invading Swedish army in 1503.

The famous Icelandic historian Snorri Sturluson, claims that Tønsberg was founded then, before the Battle of Hafrsfjord, the event that marks the start of the Norwegian state. If true, it would make Tønsberg til oldest city in Scandinavia.

There are many that dispute the accuracy of Snorris accounts, but the castle hill was a perfect place to build a fortress and it might have been used for natural protection by the population for a long time before the structure itself was built.

St. Mikkelskirken (1160-1503)

At the 2nd half of the 12th Century St. Mikkelskirken (Saint Michaels Church) was built for the Premonstratensian order. It was an important place of pilgrimage.

Around 1300 it was extended with a quire in Gothic style and given large gifts from the Norwegian king Håkon V Magnusson, the last king of the dynasty founded by King Sverre a century before.

Left you see what is left of this large church. It fell, as the fortress itself into disrepair in the late middle ages, and what was left was destroyed by the invading Swedes in 1503.

Magnus Lagabøtes Kastell (1267-1503)

On the hill closer to the city you find remain of a building. It has a plaque saying:


This structure was built by King Magnus VI, called the Law Mender in 1276 and stood until 1503.
The Southern Gate

You can leave by a walkway built in the 19th Century. Here you find the remains of what was the Southern Gate with the Guards house. It used to be decorated with glazed bricks.

A steep bridle path led from this point down to the Church of St. Lavrans (now the cathedral).

Kristina of Norway (1234-1362)

In 1257 a Norwegian princess left Tønsberghus fortress to marry a Spanish Prince. Kristina Håkonsdatter was at that point 23 years old, and her marriage to Prince Felipe of Spain was arranged to create a political alliance between the two countries. She arrived at the Monasterio de las Huelgas in Burgos, on Christmas eve, and they married in march 1258. They lived in Seville she died childless in 1262.

This statue by the South Gate, was a gift from the the local paper Tønsberg Blad, to the citys 1100th Anniversary in 1971.

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