Sunday, July 27, 2014

Tonsberg. Vestfold. Walk the Ruins Before the Museum

Tonsberg: Norway's oldest town. A fortress site on a cliff, ruins through the ages; and to the north on the fjord, Oslo. A litany of names and events:  
  • The Baglers and their wooden castle and famous well, Bagler's Well; defeated by King Sverre Sigurdsson 1177 - 1202. King Haakon IV H√•konsson, 1217 - 1263, who built the stone castle and the Bredestuen. King Magnus Lagab√łte, that means Lawmender, 1263 - 1280, and Ingeborg his bride from Denmark who came to him here in 1261.  Magnus built them a brick citadel. King Hakon V Magnusson 1299 - 1319 took sick and died here, and Harald's line was lost.  King Magnus Eriksson ruled 1319 - 1374 wed Blanca of Namur in 135, at this place, and she got the castle and lands as her morning gift.  See Old Tonsberg, Castle Hill, Dream and Reality,
  • So which of those kings is memorialized here, at this side of the wall? 

Bearings.  What was happening in 871 that would spur construction of a town and fortress on this site?  See FN 1.  Ask about the militant aggressions of the Christian Armies, ever moving north, particularly beginning 782 with Charlemagne and the Massacre of Verden, Saxon lands, Germany.

Immediate defense need not clear. Was it, then, to establish a place for trade, holding goods, defending economically?

The old Viking town of Tonsberg dates from 871.A century earlier, Charlemagne
    This castle hill is more properly termed a fortress hill, as the castles were not as we, through Disney, imagine. Later Bishoprics might have deserved the name castle, a designation of opulence. The hill, not really a huge cliff, overlooks the fjord. Slottsfjellet.  Castle Mountain, where strongholds have been located in successive eras then and since, is worth its own trip, before going to the museum.

    Tonsberg. Memorial 1881.  

    The fragments of old fortresses are memorialized by this tower, 1881.

    More moving, however, are the views, the imagined battles, long before Oslo grew and took and took.

    The site was largely destroyed under Danish attack in 1503, when the Kalmar Union (Denmark, Sweden, Norway, all with fluid boundaries) fell apart. see


    FN 1   Why a town in 871 at this place? What defense needs had arisen?  Was the defense need against Christian military incursion.

    780-782 CE.  On the Continent, Charlemagne had been fighting and trying to convert the Saxons, unsuccessfully.  So he slaughtered 4500 Saxon prisoners of war at Sachsenhain, Saxon Woods, known as the Massacre of Verden.  Word of that travesty would have spread, alarming the yet unconverted. Heinrich Himmler set up a memorial in the forest, see Heinrich Himmler: A Life by Peter Longerich,; and Sachsenhain.
    Maps of Charlemagne's rule and conquests, see Illustrated Timeline of Military History 

    793 CE.  Vikings raid monastery at Lindisfarne. Scroll down for Timeline of Military History.

    834 CE.  Burial of two women in context of great opulence in the Viking culture, Oseberg, showing extensive trading items and riches, just to the north of Tonsberg. See

    870 CE.  By this time,  Harald Fairhair had united Norway's southern petty kings, see see

    1026 CE.  Henry III, Holy Roman Emperor defeats Norway and Sweden

    1030 CE - Olaf Haraldsson is killed at Stiklestad, and becomes a saint, complete with miracles, see

    Did resistance to Christianity stop?

    1066 CE. Norman invasion of England at Hastings.

    1095 CE.  First Crusade.

    1177-1202  King Sverre Sigurdsson was king.  Norwegian history, without readily familiar dynasties, takes work to follow. See  

    1201.  King Sverre Sigurdsson laid siege to this point. His grandson, Hakon Hakonsson became one of Norway's most famous kings. See

    1277 - Treaty of Tonsberg, between Archbishop and King, showing parity in bargaining power by that time, or even a tilt toward the Archbishop, see  The museum lady in town did say that the Christians, when they prevailed, brought more of their steeples, and once ensconced the steeples rose like spears. Warnings. 
    Dates, please. Sources.

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