Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Gamlebyen in Fredrikstad - the gated city

Gamlebyen in Fredrikstad was founded exactly 400 years ago and Fredrik II of Denmark and Norway intended it to be a military stronghold to defend the area against the main enemy - the Swedish army. It was meant to replace the city of Borg or Sarpsborg, founded by King Olav, the patron saint and eternal king of Norway in 1016. This city was destroyed by the advancing Swedes in 1567. Today Gamlebyen is one of the best preserved walled cities in Northern Europe.

The first city from 1567 had defences made from wood, but a century later Major General Johan Caspar Cicignon designed a walled city made from solid stone. We were privileged to get a guided tour behind the walls and here are some of the military buildings left from the city's glorious history.

Provianthuset (1674)

This massive building is the oldest in the entire city. It goes back to the time of Johan Caspar Cicignon himself.

It is located in the eastern most part of the walled city, overlooking the mouth of the Glomma river as it floats into the Oslofjord.

Today it is used for functions and receptions, and what a place to throw a party! Here you also find workshops for ceramic artists and you can buy their products here.

Tøihuset (1776)

Close to the old church you find the gate of Tøihuset, where the military used to store their uniforms. This is in fact one of the largest military building in the country with a surface covering more than 4000 square metres /40000 square ft.

Today it house a large exhibition covering the period from 1567 to the present day.

The Infantry Barracks (1764)

This large brick building located on the Market Square is one of the finest examples of military architecture in the whole country.

Its plan is based on the calender. 4 gates - for each of the seasons, 12 chimneys - one for each month, 52 rooms - one for each week, 365 windows - one for each day, 24 panes in the window for each hour of the day, and 60 doors for each minute of the hour.

The infantry barracks was the home of the military personnel, and often also for their families, and there was not much room for each during the golden age of the city. Today you find offices and cultural institutions in the house.

The Slavery (1731)

This impressive house built out of stone, was built as main guard house for the fortress at Gamlebyen. It was extended both in 1734 and 1825 to house the prisoners sentenced to hard labour or the fortress slaves as they were called. Being slaves here was rumored to be much worse than anywhere else in the country.

One famous slave was the Norwegian Lay Preacher Hans Nielsen Hauge that originally came from this area and one of the first that dared to challenge the monopoly of religious practice held by the state church. He was arrested December 27th 1797 for illegal religious activities.

Up to now, Slaveriet has been used by the local museum, but is now waiting for new occupants.

Voldportvakten (1696)

Voldportvakten is the gate guarding the only passage over the main bridge. This gate was closed and the bridge raised during night.

On the gate you can still admire the monogram of King Christian V of Denmark-Norway followed by his motto:


Piety and Justice were the reassuring words for the people that passed through these gates from the neighbouring area.

In addition to Voldporten , there were three gates facing the river, Kongeporten (The Kings Gate), Mellemporten (The Middle Gate), and Fergeporten (The Ferry Gate).

The Draw Bridge (1667)

The first Draw Bridge was constructed in 1667 and was painted in bright colours and decorated with wooden statues.

The bridge was lowered every morning and raised during night time, and there were no passage for those arriving too late.

It was hard work operating the mechanism, and it required up to 30 strong men to lower and raise it.

Kongsten Fort (1682-1685)

Kongsten fort was one of the smaller fortifications outside the city walls. It was constructed on the hill was also called Galgeberg (The Gallow Hill), once the old execution ground.

The reason for the construction of the fort was to protect the only area where the enemy could attack the city with their cannons.

There were four other fortifications that were designed to give the city additional protection during war.

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