Friday, April 18, 2008

Traces of Oslo's Medieval past

The history of the Norwegian capital goes more than 1000 years back in time. The location of the city changed after the 14th great fire in 1624. Many of the medieval buildings decayed and became a source of building material during the construction of many of the renaissance buildings in the new city. In spite of this, much of the medieval remains are still visble and local authorities are now working to preserve what is left from the oldest part of Oslo's history.

The Royal Residence (1040 - mid 16th century)

At the end of Saxegaardsgaten, or Østre Strete, you find remains of two important Medieval buildings. The Royal residence, goes back to 1040-1060, when there was a circular defense structure with wooden buildings on the site. This oldest structure has been dated from English and German coins found on the site.

Oslo experienced a construction boom during the reign of King Håkon IV Håkonsson (1217-1263) It was he that started to build the fortification visible today. It was a square walled structure with two towers and a large guild hall.

It was used as a royal residence until 1300 and was then taken over by the Catholic church as the construction of the new royal residence, Akershus fortress started. This as modern armour had made the old residence vulnerable from fire directed from the Ekeberg hill nearby.

The royal residence housed during the last two centuries the clergy connected to the diocese of Oslo. After the reformation the old royal residence, as many of the other medieval buildings fell into decay.

Church of Saint Mary (1050 / 1300 - 1550)

It has been church buildings on the site for nearly 1000 years. The first church was a stave church in wood built around 1050. It was replaced by a stone church around 1100 and this building was extended for the next two centuries.

Around 1300, during the reign of Håkon V Magnusson, the last king of Norway, a new church was rebuilt in brick. The transcept was extended and two tall towers were built on its west front, flanking the main entrance.

The Church of Saint Mary was one of the larges churches in Norway, along with Nidaros cathedral and the Church of St. Hallvard. Adjacent to the Royal residence, it served the royal household.

When Håkon V died in 1319 he, and his queen Eufemia of Rügen were buried in the church. Their remains were later removed and are now buried in the Royal mausoleum at Akershus fortress.

The Church of Saint Mary did not, as most of the other medieval buildings in Oslo, survive the 16th century. After a fire in 1523 the church fell into decay and was 20 years later beyond repair.

Read more on Oslos historical sights here

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