Old Town, Oslo

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Map of Old Town, Oslo from year 1900
Current Oslo bishop's residence with the remains of St. Olav's Monastery as cellars
Ruins of St. Mary's Church, seen to the north, the water level indicating the shore of the Middle Ages and the settlement buildings of Bjørvika in the background

The Old Town of Oslo (in Norwegian: Gamlebyen) is a neighborhood in the inner city of Oslo, Norway, belonging to the borough of Gamle Oslo and is the oldest urban areas within the current capital. Oslo's old town was established with the urban structure around year 1000 and was the capital of Norway's dominion in 1314. Old Town core area (i.e. the southern and the central part of Old Town) has several ruins of stone and brick lying ahead in the day, and large amounts of protected cultural underground. The core area also has a listed 1700s buildings. Towards Ekeberg slope and further up is some 1700 - and 1800-century wooden houses that are zoned for conservation Speciality for Planning and Building Act. Though there is Old Town many four-story brick house at the end of the 1800s, and some heritage railway buildings from different eras.

The medieval town of Oslo[edit]

The medieval town of Oslo is the area where Oslo's medieval ruins of stone and brick is located. Ruin are located in the area that today is called Old Town, delineated roughly by Hovin creek in the north, Alna river's original course to the south and east, and water associated with the Middelalderparken in the west. Franciscan Monastery (partly covered by the Gamlebyen Church and Oslo Hospital) just east of Alna are also the medieval town, despite its location on the "backside" of Alna. Also Akershus fortress and castle (begun in 1297) and the Hovedøya of the Cistercians former monastery belongs to the medieval town. In the center of the medieval town of Oslo is a square, the city's oldest market. The market was in the area where today's street intersections Oslogate - Bispegata is located.

The Medieval Oslo had its heyday in the decades around 1300, when Haakon V Magnusson ruled first as duke (1284-1299) and then as king (1299-1319).[1]

Church centre[edit]

Oslo was a village with the St. Clement's Church and the cemetery already around the year 1000. According to Snorri's Heimskringla, the city was built by King Harald Hardrada in 1050. Subsequent archaeological excavations and research have established that Oslo had the urban structure as early as the end of the Viking Age. Towards the end of 11th century, King Olav Kyrre made the city a bishop's seat. Around the year 1100 Oslo's former two stave churches, the old Clement's Church and Old St. Mary's Church, replaced with stone churches. King Sigurd the Crusader began St. Hallvard's Cathedral in the early 12th century. The Cathedral was named after St. Hallvard of Husaby in Lier, Norway, who was shot when he tried to save an innocent pregnant woman who was accused of theft of two men. Church's most important parts have been completed in 1130, when King Sigurd was buried in the chancel south wall, and the body of St. Hallvard was led by his former grave in Lier and shelved in a magnificent silver casket that was placed on the high altar. He was Oslo's patron saint.

King Håkon IV Håkonsson built a new royal residence in stone and brick. The bishop replaced a former bishop's palace for three with a new stone, Oslo Bishop's Castle. The Dominicans monastery (St. Olav's Monastery) was built up to the somewhat older St. Olaf's Church.

Around 1290 the Franciscans established the monastery in the south-eastern outskirts of town during the north-facing slope of Ekeberg (current Ekeberg slope). In 1299 King Eirik II Magnusson died. When he had no sons, his brother took over the throne as Haakon V Magnusson. King Haakon had Oslo as his duke seat while his brother was king, and he made Oslo to his permanent royal residence. At the same time he started the construction of the Akershus Fortress, when weapons development was the palace an easy target for artillery from Ekeberg Hill. In the early 1300s, St. Mary's Church converted into a large brick cathedral with two powerful west tower - a landmark for the entrance to the city.

In 1314, the King decided that the dean of St. Mary's Church was to be Chancellor, and have the State seal of "forever" and so he made Oslo the capital of the kingdom of Norway. King Haakon died in 1319, and was buried in St. Mary's Church. Under Hakon Magnusson, the city reached its peak in the distribution and cultural diversity.[2]


After King Haakon's death was the political situation unclear and while the city experienced an economic downturn. Not least, the Black Death of 1348 and several subsequent plague epidemics and fires were setbacks. In 1397 the Kalmar Union, became an absolute fact. After the Protestant Reformation in 1537, all church and monastery properties added during the Danish-Norwegian king who had his main residence in Copenhagen, and Oslo lost the last remnants of being an economic center of gravity. There were several attempts to move the city closer to Akershus Fortress, but the citizens built up the town on fire sites. After a fire in 1624 (research shows that this may have been the 14th fire) used Christian IV power and forced the inhabitants to rebuild the city after modern town around the fortress of Akershus. The old town were covered with soil and turned into farmland to ensure supplies to the garrison of the fort.

As the Old Town became part of the capital of Oslo in 1859, and it were ordered to build brick houses in this area. The main part of the current Old Town buildings stems from the construction boom in the late 1800s. Then, it was also brought many new streets that break clearly with the old transport structure.[3]

Today the Old Town (Gamlebyen) is an area in the borough of Gamle Oslo, characterized by apartment buildings from the late 1800s, and some shops, restaurants and pubs. The area was formerly dominated by noise from automobile and railroad traffic, but most traffic is placed underground in recent years and the area is now much quieter.[4]

Historical monuments[edit]

  • Oslo Ladegård.
  • "Bishop Nicholas' Chapel." Rooms from Old Bishop's Palace in Oslo, rebuilt in the 20th century.
  • Ruin Park (Memorial Park) with the ruins of St. Hallvard's Cathedral and the Church of the Cross. Besides Olav's Monastery, partially ruined, partial basement in the current bishop of Oslo's palace.
  • The medieval park (Middelalderparken) with the ruins of St. Mary's Church (Royal Chapel), the former Royal Palace and St. Clement's Church. In recent years the park has been the scene of the festival Oslo Medieval Festival.
  • Oslo Hospital, established in 1538 in the former Franciscan monastery (founded ca. 1290). Oldest existing building: Gamlebyen Church, originally from the 13th century. Gamlebyen Church, formerly Oslo Hospital Church, is built on the site after the Franciscan monastery from 1290. The old abbey was originally built in 1290s and burned and undergone changes many times. However, the walls of the medieval church today. The church got its present form in 1796 after a fire. Restored under the supervision of architect William K. Essendrop in time from 1934 to 1939. Church bells are from 1705.
  • Gamlebyen gravlund, the Old Town's Cemetery. Among those buried are "Eidsvoll man" Christian Magnus Falsen and painter Adolph Tidemand, in addition to many of the first railway employees.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ •Nedkvitne, Arnved & Per G. Norseng: Middelalderbyen ved Bjørvika: Oslo 1000–1536, 2000, isbn 82-02-19100-9 in Norwegian
  2. ^ Lokalhistorie, Gamlebyen in Norwegian
  3. ^ •Schia, Erik: Oslo innerst i Viken, 2. edition, 1995, isbn 82-03-22114-9 in Norwegian
  4. ^ History of Oslo

Coordinates: 59°54′20″N 10°46′6″E / 59.90556°N 10.76833°E / 59.90556; 10.76833