Akershus Fortress

Coordinates: 59°54′24″N 10°44′10″E / 59.90667°N 10.73611°E / 59.90667; 10.73611
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
slott og festning
Castle and Fortress
Oslo, Norway
Akershus Castle and Fortress
Royal residences
Site information
Controlled byGovernment of Norway
Norwegian Army
Norwegian royal family
Site history
In use1290s–present
Garrison information
Haakon IV
Haakon V
Knut Alvsson
Ove Gjedde
Knut Alvsson
Frederik Gottschalk von Haxthausen
Christian Roy Kaldager
Akershus Castle and Fortress seen from Oslofjord

Akershus Fortress (Norwegian: Akershus Festning, pronounced [ɑkəʂˈhʉːs ˈfɛ̂sːtnɪŋ])[1] or Akershus Castle (Norwegian: Akershus slott [ɑkəʂˈhʉːs ˈslɔtː])[2] is a medieval castle in the Norwegian capital Oslo that was built to protect and provide a royal residence for the city. Since the Middle Ages the fortress has been the namesake and centre of the main fief and later main county of Akershus, which was originally one of Norway's four main regions and which included most of Eastern Norway. The fortress itself was located within the Akershus main county until 1919, and also within the smaller Akershus sub county until 1842.

The castle has also been used as a military base, a prison and is currently the temporary office of the Prime minister of Norway.[3]


It is not known exactly when the construction of the castle started but it is believed that it took place around the late 1290s, by King Haakon V, replacing Tønsberg as one of the two most important Norwegian castles of the period (the other being Båhus). It was constructed in response to the Norwegian nobleman, Earl Alv Erlingsson of Sarpsborg’s earlier attack on Oslo that occurred in 1287. In the aftermath of the attack, it became clear that the city’s existing defences weren’t effective and therefore, a stronger defensive centre was needed.

The castle is mentioned in written sources for the first time in 1300 in a letter from King Haakon to a church in Oslo. However, the letter does not mention how far the construction of the castle had progressed by then.

The fortress has successfully survived all sieges, primarily by Swedish forces, including those by forces led by Charles XII in 1716.

History and military use[edit]

The Middle Ages[edit]

The fortress was first used in battle in 1308, when it was besieged by the Swedish duke Eric of Södermanland, whose brother won the Swedish throne in 1309. The siege was eventually broken by a local Norwegian army in a battle. (This battle forms a major part of the plot of Sigrid Undset's historical novel In the Wilderness, the third volume of her tetralogy The Master of Hestviken.)

Renaissance and Denmark-Norway[edit]

In 1449-1450 the castle was besieged again, this time by the Swedish king Karl Knutsson Bonde, but he had to lift the siege after a while. The castle was not besieged again until 1502 when Scottish soldiers in the service of the Danish king besieged the castle in order to regain it from the hands of the Norwegian nobleman Knut Alvsson.

Akershus was besieged yet again in 1523, this time by Swedish soldiers but Oslo’s inhabitants, at the command of Hans Mule, burned down their houses in an attempt to drive them out and the Swedes retreated after a short period.[4] King Christian II besieged the castle from 1531 to 1532 but the siege was lifted by forces from Denmark and Lübeck. After this siege the castle was improved and strengthened.

In 1567, during the Northern Seven Years' War, the castle was besieged once more by Swedish forces, but the Danish king's lord lieutenant, Christen Munk, responded by burning down the city in order to deprive the attackers themselves of the means of receiving supplies, and eventually the Swedes retreated.

The immediate proximity of the sea was a key feature, for naval power was a vital military force as the majority of Norwegian commerce in that period was by sea. The fortress was strategically important for the capital, and therefore, Norway as well. Whoever controlled Akershus fortress ruled Norway.

World War II[edit]

The German garrison's commander Major Josef Nichterlein [no] and his aide Captain Johannes Hamel handing the fortress over to the Norwegian resistance movement's Terje Rollem (May 11, 1945)

The fortress has never successfully been besieged by a foreign enemy. However it surrendered without combat to Nazi Germany in 1940 when the Norwegian government evacuated the capital in the face of the unprovoked German assault on Denmark and Norway (see Operation Weserübung).

During World War II, people were executed here by the German occupiers, including members of the Pelle group. The fortress was liberated on 11 May 1945, when it was handed over to Terje Rollem on behalf of the Norwegian resistance movement. After the war, eight Norwegian traitors who had been tried for war crimes and sentenced to death were also executed at the fortress. Among those executed were Vidkun Quisling and Siegfried Fehmer.

Royal residence[edit]

The hall of King Christian IV

During the Middle Ages[edit]

After construction of the castle was finished around 1300, Haakon V gradually started to use the castle as a residential palace, favoring the keep over the Oslo Kongsgard Estate despite the fact that the castle likely was unsuited as a residence.[5] The castle becoming a royal residence also played a significant role in the process where the capital for Norway was moved from Bergen to Oslo. Several significant figures from the Norwegian middle ages, including Haakon IV, Queen Euphemia, Ingeborg Eriksdottir and Queen Margaret, all resided at the castle, which functioned as the official Norwegian royal residence for several decades.[6][7][8] The last Norwegian king prior to the establishment of the Kalmar Union, Olaf II, was born at the castle in 1370.

Restoration and palace[edit]

Following the great fire of 1624, King Christian IV made the decision to relocate and rebuild the entire city of Oslo.[9] The king ordered the new city to be located closer to Akershus Fortress, renaming the city Christiania. The fortress was subsequently modernized and remodeled, with the new appearance being that of a renaissance castle with Italian inspired bastions. The castle primarily functioned as a palace until the turn of the 19th century, with new towers, halls, chambers and gates being added over time.

When the king was absent, the castle functioned as the seat of the Steward of Norway.


Akershus has also been a prison, with a section of it known as The Slavery (Norwegian: Slaveriet) because the prisoners could be rented out for work in the city. It has housed many rebels and criminals through Norwegian history. Particularly well-known people to have been imprisoned there include author Gjest Baardsen (1791–1849), and the similarly idealized thief Ole Høiland. Also, many early Norwegian socialists (supporters of Marcus Thrane, 1817–1890) also spent time in the cells of Akershus.[10] The prison was also a plot element in the film Fante-Anne (1920).

Kautokeino rebellion prisoners[edit]

Following the 1852 Laestadian Sámi revolt in Guovdageaidnu, all men except the two leaders Aslak Hætta and Mons Somby (who were beheaded in Alta) ended up in Akershus Fortress – the women were imprisoned in Trondheim. Many of the rebels died after a few years in captivity.[11] Among the survivors was Lars Hætta (18 years at the time of imprisonment), who during his stay was allowed time and means to write the first translation of the Bible into North Sámi.[12]

Current use[edit]

The sarcophagi of King Haakon VII, Queen Maud (the white sarcophagus), King Olav V and Crown Princess Märtha (the green sarcophagus)

Although still a military area, the Akershus Fortress is open to the public between 6:00 and 21:00 daily. As well as the castle, the Norwegian Armed Forces Museum and Norway's Resistance Museum can also be visited. The Norwegian Ministry of Defence and the country's Defence Staff Norway share a joint modern headquarters in the eastern part of the fortress. His Majesty the King's Guard is responsible for guarding the fortress, with stationary guard posts during open hours and mobile patrols at night. One of the stationary guard posts at the entrance is a popular photography spot for tourists visiting the fortress.

Royal Mausoleum[edit]

The castle's Royal Mausoleum is the final resting place of a number of Norwegian royal figures. This includes King Sigurd I, King Haakon V, Queen Eufemia, King Haakon VII, Queen Maud, King Olav V and Crown Princess Märtha. Since restoration of the main building, the castle has frequently been used as the venue for official events and dinners for dignitaries and foreign heads of state.

Office of the Prime Minister[edit]

Glacisgata 1, the temporary seat of the Prime Minister of Norway

After the 22 July attacks in 2011, the Office of the Norwegian Prime minister has been located close to the fortress in a building that originally belonged to the Norwegian Ministry of Defence.


Walt Disney World in Bay Lake, Florida just outside Orlando in the United States replicates a portion of the fortress at the Norway pavilion at its Epcot theme park. In a further reference to Akershus' royal history, the Epcot replication also houses a Disney Princess character restaurant called Akershus Royal Banquet Hall, which also serves some Norwegian dishes.[13]


Commanders of Akershus Fortress[edit]

The year is that in which they first took command.[citation needed]

Museums at Akershus Fortress[edit]


  1. ^ Berulfsen, Bjarne (1969). Norsk Uttaleordbok (in Norwegian). Oslo: H. Aschehoug & Co (W Nygaard). pp. 20, 92.
  2. ^ Berulfsen, Bjarne (1969). Norsk Uttaleordbok (in Norwegian). Oslo: H. Aschehoug & Co (W Nygaard). pp. 20, 294.
  3. ^ "Kontakt Statsministerens kontor". 14 June 2006.
  4. ^ "Hans Mule". 25 February 2020.
  5. ^ NRK TV - Se Akershus slott og festning gjennom 700 år (in Norwegian), 12 March 2014, retrieved 2018-08-31
  6. ^ "Akershus Slott og Festning - Akershus Slotts Venner". www.slottsvenn.no. Retrieved 2018-01-31.
  7. ^ "Kongeboliger og nasjonalskatter i Norge". www.nb.no. Retrieved 2018-01-31.
  8. ^ "3. des: Margretes nødbrev Eder, min allerkjæreste..." dokumenteneforteller.tumblr.com. Retrieved 2018-02-02.
  9. ^ Riksantikvaren. "Bjørvika anno 1624 - Riksantikvaren". www.riksantikvaren.no (in Norwegian). Retrieved 2018-02-26.
  10. ^ "Norske Dramatikeres Forbund Raud vinter". Dramatiker.no. Retrieved 2010-04-28.
  11. ^ "Kautokeino-opprøret 1852: Rettsoppgjøret". Arkivverket.no. Archived from the original on 2011-07-24. Retrieved 2010-04-28.
  12. ^ "Kulturkompasset". Kulturkompasset. Archived from the original on 2011-07-13. Retrieved 2010-04-28.
  13. ^ "Akershus Royal Banquet Hall". Walt Disney World. The Walt Disney Company. Retrieved 23 April 2023.
  14. ^ Norwegian Biographical Lexicon , Mar 26 2017 , https://nbl.snl.no/Hans_Mule
  15. ^ Larson, J. L. (2010). Reforming the North: The Kingdoms and Churches of Scandinavia, 1520-1545. United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press.
  16. ^ "Archived copy". www.visitoslo.com. Archived from the original on 18 September 2020. Retrieved 22 May 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)

External links[edit]

Media related to Akershus Fortress at Wikimedia Commons

59°54′24″N 10°44′10″E / 59.90667°N 10.73611°E / 59.90667; 10.73611