Akershus Castle was originally built as a medieval fortified castle around 1300. Its primary function was to defend Oslo, Norway’s capital from 1299. During the reign of the Danish-Norwegian king Christian IV in the first half of the 17th century, the castle was rebuilt in renaissance style and surrounded by a modern bastion fortress.
There are still signs on the castle walls from the time of Christian IV. The cast iron anchor plates on the Eastern wall read 1638 and are original from that time. The King’s monogram can be spotted on one of the two towers.
The castle fell into disrepair in the 18th and 19th centuries, but has later been restored. Its primary function today is to house the representation rooms of the Norwegian Government.
A) Originally the royal kitchen in the renaissance castle of King Christian IV. Today one can still observe the remains of bakery ovens and fireplaces.
B) The chamber of the court bailiff: the office which administrated the collecting of taxes from all Eastern Norway during the union with Denmark. Located in the corner of the room is a chest used by the bailiff to collect toll from passing ships in Drøbak, just south of Oslo. On the top of the chest are two slots for coins. Half of the coins collected would go to the bailiff and the other half would go to the King.
C) The secret passage: part of an inner passage from the medieval castle, which gave easy access between the south and north wings.
D) The school chamber: in the 17th century the children of the Danish governor, who lived and worked in the castle, would get their lessons here. The green tiles are original from the 1600s.
This part of the castle was made into four prison cells early in the 17th century. From the written sources we learn that one of the cells was known as the witch’s pit. The inner prison cell floor is sloped due to the angle of the corridor going underneath the cell.
These cells were used up until the 1700s, after which the prisoners were moved to the main fortress prison.
The final resting place of members of the present royal family was built in 1948. It was designed by the Norwegian architect Arnstein Arneberg and his firm. The Mausoleum is decorated with Norwegian marble stone and a painting by the Norwegian painter Henrik Sørensen.
Resting in the white marble sarcophagus: King Haakon VII (1872–1957) and Queen Maud (1869-1938)
Resting in the green bronze sarcophagus: King Olav V (1903–1991) and Crown Princess Märtha (1901-1954)
On the opposite side of the crypt, three members of the medieval royal family are laid to rest, originally buried in two of the churches of Old Oslo which are today ruins.
On the left, the founder of Akershus Castle, King Håkon V and his wife, Queen Eufemia of Rügen. On the right, King Sigurd the Crusader.
This part of the castle has been used for religious purposes since the early 16th century. The church has been on the brink of demolition a couple of times, and then restored and refurnished. The altar piece, baptismal font and pulpit are in the nordic baroque style, from around 1750. The rest of the interior is a result of the restorations during the 20th century. The castle church functions as royal burial church, and also as the main church of the Norwegian military. It is in continuous use.
The altar piece, one of the most decorated items in the church, was designed by Elias David Häusser, who also designed the first Christiansborg castle in Copenhagen. At the very top of the altar piece is a blue circle with golden writing. It reads “Jahve” in Hebrew, meaning God. Just beneath the blue circle are two mirrored monograms belonging to the Danish-Norwegian royal couple during the 1700s: King Christian VI and Queen Sophie Magdalene. The close proximity of the circle with God and the two monograms show how the King and Queen were considered almighty and above all others in society apart from God. This is proof of the Danish-Norwegian autocracy which lasted from 1660 until 1814 in Norway.
The walls of grey stone in this room are the remains of the central tower of the medieval castle, the keep, known as the Daredevil tower. The walls were included in the new east wing building from the 1930s.
On the walls to the south and north are 17th century Norwegian bridal tapestries, originally made to decorate the bed on the wedding night.
The crown on the east wall: During the construction of this room in 1937, Prince Harald, now King Harald, was born. This was a grand event as Harald is the first Norwegian prince to be born in Norway since the 1300s. The prince was born on a Sunday, and when the carpenters came back to work on Monday, they decided to celebrate the birth of the new prince by building a crown out of bricks. The chief architect Arnstein Arneberg had not planned for the crown, but luckily he allowed for it to stay.
The present east wing was built in the 1930s, including remains of older walls. Here you find the main entrance to the representation rooms of the castle.
The pennants that decorate the wall belong to the Norwegian dragoon companies during the Great Nordic War (1700-1721). Copies from 1971-1974.
In the 1600s, this floor was divided into several smaller rooms, which functioned as the private apartments of the Danish-Norwegian kings and queens. It is named after the most famous of these, King Christian IV. This king was particularly interested in Norway, and often visited this part of his kingdom. He founded several new cities, reorganised various areas of government and initiated important mining industries. This floor was later made into one large hall in the Nordic baroque style.
The portrait of King Christian IV is located in the middle on the southern wall. The painting is a contemporary copy by the Danish court painter, Pieter Isaacsz, from 1614. Christian IV was the king of Denmark-Norway for 60 years, making him Norway’s longest reigning monarch. It was under his reign that the old Akershus Castle was transformed into his own, modern Renaissance-style castle, and it is mostly his castle that we can see today. Following the city fire in Oslo in 1624, he decided to rebuild the city by moving it further west and under the fortress. This was primarily done for strategical reasons, but also to modernise the city. He named the new city after himself: Christiania.
The three tapestries on the north wall are among the most valuable items of the castle interiors. They were woven in Brussels in the mid 17th century and depict motives from the Spanish Riding School in Vienna.
The four full figure paintings on the south wall were acquired with funding from friends of Akershus Castle and private donors.
King Christian VI (1699-1746)
Queen Sophie Magdalene (1700-1770)
King Fredrik V (1723-1766)
Queen Louise (1724-1751)
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These two rooms were originally part of the royal apartments. Today the castle is furnished to suit its primary function as Government representation rooms. Because of this, no attempts have been made to recreate historical interiors, and you will for instance not find any beds here. The furniture and other decorative items in the castle date mostly from the 16th and 17th century. They are not original to the castle, but have been acquired after the restoration.
The name derives from some peasants of the Romerike area north of Oslo, who repaired this wing after a fire in 1527. According to ghost stories, the Romerike peasants still haunt the place.
In the 17th century the Governor of Norway, who governed the country on behalf of the Danish kings, had his offices here. Today the Romerike hall functions as the dining hall, and can seat 180 people for official banquets.
In the 1500s, a lightning strike hit the West Wing of Akershus Castle. Parts of the castle were destroyed in the following fire, and it was decided that it should be rebuilt. The government ordered the Romerike peasants to rebuild the castle. These peasants had not paid their taxes for three years, simply because they did no’t have the funds as their crops had failed for several years. While the rebuild was underway, a plague broke out and all the Romerike peasants died shortly after. It is said that the peasants never really left the castle. During dark Autumn evenings it is still possible to hear the ghosts of the Romerike peasants as they cry and moan over their terrible fate.
This hall is in the north wing, the oldest part of the castle. In the Middle Ages, it was the primary living room for members of the court. It is named after the Danish born queen Margrethe I (1353-1412), who used to live at the castle as a young queen in the mid 1300s. She married king Håkon VI of Norway, but later became regent of both Norway, Denmark and Sweden. She took part in the creation of the Kalmar union, which in 1397 united the Nordic countries under one king. The hall has later been used as a court room and for state dinners.
When Queen Margrethe lived at Akershus Castle, the Black Plague was spreading rapidly throughout the country. Even at the castle, conditions were poor. It is said that one of Queen Margrethe’s chamber maids starved to death. And the maid has shown herself at the castle many times after. She appears in the corner of the room before she glides across the floor. She is said to be very scary as she is dressed in a long, grey robe – giving her the name The Mantelgeist, a caped ghost. The scariest feature of the maid is that she does not have a face. Where her face should be, there is only an oval parchment-coloured flat surface.
This was presumably the location of the great hall of the medieval castle. The present room is a result of the restoration during the 1900s, with interior elements inspired by English and Norwegian originals from the 1300s. The decorations are painted directly on the walls with whitewash paint without the use of a template. They were painted by Kåre Limseth by hand, and he spent two years painting both walls.
The hall is used occasionally for concerts, theatre performances and state dinners.
The Rose Window
The Rose Window, Akershus Castle's stained glass window, was created by Emanuel Vigeland in 1919/1920. As a result of the explosion at Filipstadkaia in 1943, the original Rose Window was destroyed and it was believed that the glass pieces were lost or completely broken. In 1999, however, some parts of the missing window were found and they were restored in 2001. In 2023, the whole window was restored and the missing pieces were reconstructed.
The window depicts two biblical stories, while the remaining paintings depict Nordic saints. The center window shows Agnus Dei, The Lamb of God. The remaining motifs show:
- The Virgin Mary and Baby Jesus (original 1920)
- The death of St. Olav (reconstructed)
- St. Halvard, the patron saint of Oslo (original 1920)
- St. Svithun, the patron saint of Stavanger (reconstructed)
- St. Sunniva who is seeking refuge in a cave (original 1920)
- The death of St. Magnus (reconstructed)
- St. Tor who sings for sick animals (original 1920)
- St John who washes the feet of the poor (reconstructed)
After Norway gained its independence from Denmark in 1814, the National Archives were established at Akershus Castle. Henrik Wergeland became the the first Head of State Archives and used this room as his office. He is most famous for writing poems and for contributing to make the 17th of May, Norway's National Day, into the grand celebration it is today.
This room was reconstructed in 1971 using inventory lists and other accounts to resemble the office of Wergeland .
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