Norway’s smallest town, Stavern, was home to many of the country’s most well-known and celebrated artists. The town is located outside Larvik in the county of Vestfold. It was not given town status until the year of 1942. There are Easter, summer, autumn and Christmas exhibitions in about 20 locations around the town.
From the year 1677 until 2002, the town was the home of an important naval base for Norway. The area has likely been a harbor since ancient times. The name Stavern has been found in several written sources that date back to the 11th and 12th centuries. In these documents the area is referred to as being a good harbor for fishing. Aside from being an important harbor for the military, Stavern was also an important port for civil ship traffic to Sweden and Denmark during the 17th and 18th centuries.
A meteorological phenomenon blesses Stavern with 200 sunny days every year. Stavern has kept its special charm with its narrow streets and old houses.
In summer Stavern boils like a southern stew, the population doubles times over and the town has on offer a plethora of summer activities with galleries and exhibitions on every street corner.
One of Norway’s most beloved poet, Herman Wildenvey (1886–1959), is eternally and undeniably linked with Stavern. After a turbulent youth, Herman and his wife Gisken found peace in Stavern, although many years were spent in personal trials and tribulations.
Author Jonas Lie (1833–1908) was a naval cadet in Stavern and lived in the naval barracks. This setting became the basis of his famous novel “The Commander’s Daughters”, which immortalized him in Norway. In his later years, Jonas Lie and his wife Thomasine retired to Stavern, to their house “Elisenfryd”. In memory, a copy of their portrait was etched onto a tombstone that was erected in 1908 – this is located at the entrance to Stavern Church.
The first main construction in Stavern can be traced to Count Ulrik Fredrik Gyldenløve who built Citadellet on the island of Karlsøy among the idyllic skerries of Stavern in the 1680’s. Karlsøy was later renamed Citadell Isle after the fort. During the Nordic war (1709–1720) the fort became of great importance as the only naval base for the Danish/Norwegian fleet as well as for the ships that continued to sail between Norway and Denmark with mail and provisions.
The decision to build the Fredriksvern Dockyard was made in 1750 by Frederick V, King of Denmark and Norway. Most of the buildings and fortifications were already completed by 1754 with the surrounding ramparts and moats. A garrison church, cemetery and houses were built outside the ramparts. Fredriksvern became a center for naval activities in Norway, with a high level of competence in all skills required for ship-building, seamanship and operative naval duties.
In 1814 the yard became the main base for the Norwegian Navy. The Naval Cadet Institute was relocated to Karljohansvern in 1864, and Fredriksvern Dockyard was abandoned in 1896 when the Norwegian Parliament decided to turn it into an exercise center for the Military Academy. In later times the Dockyard was also home to the Anti-Aircraft Regiment. This means that through its more than 250 years of active service, Fredriksvern has acted as a garrison for all branches of the military defence. Guided tours of Fredriksvern all year round for small and large groups.
It was during the early 1700s that naval hero Peter Wessel Tordenskiold (1690-1720) made his mark in Stavern. History tells us that he fell in love with a girl from Stavern and legend has it that her ghost now wanders along the ramparts of Citadellet. Gustav Vigeland (sculptor) created a bronze statue of Tordenskiold that stands on a rock in the port overlooking his old berth. Citadell Isle is now an idyllic recreational area. In the early 1900’s , the old Commander’s Residence on the Isle became a holiday retreat and was much favoured by national artists such as Hans Gude, Christian Krogh and Odd Nerdrum who have said that thhe Citadell Isle later inspired their work
“Kadettbrakka”, built in 1773, is one of the largest wooden structures in Norway. It was originally built as a navy ware house to store provisions for 1000 men, including the staff on Fredriksvern Verft, for 6 months. The building is an impressive construction, 70m long, 11m wide and 4 storeys high.
The most outstanding building on Fredriksvern is Fredriksvern Church. Completed in 1756, it is a beautiful blend of renaissance and baroque architecture.
In front of Fredriksvern Church stands a fountain designed by Ørnulf Bast and built after World War II. Inscribed on the fountain are names of 13 men who gave their lives during the war. The fountain is made of a light coloured granite, common to this part of Norway.
Dating back to 1777, the oldest water pumps in North Europe are to be found here. They are located in the vicinity of Stavern City Hall, surrounded by old garrison buildings. In old times people came here to fetch water, wash clothes and gossip. It is still today a gathering place for the inhabitants of Stavern, but they are no longer accompanied by their dirty laundry! It is a picturesque spot much favored by wedding photographers.
Captain Ohlsen’s version of the optical telegraph can be found at Signalen. The optical telegraph, first used in Norway in 1801, was used as a military warning system and a means of communication along the coast of Norway, from Trondheim to Hvaler, until peace returned in 1814. Needless to say, the view from Signalen is spectacular.
Trips and excursions to “Svenner” are popular with everyone. People usually make their way here by boat. This rocky piece of coastline with its many nooks and crannies has a spot for everyone. An ideal place for barbecues and relaxing. There is a lighthouse to be found here. Tours are available daily throughout the summer from 17pm 19pm. On a clear day you can see across the Oslofjord to Sweden. The Tourist Information Centre arranges excursions to “Svenner”.
The largest historical site in the county of Vestfold is “Brunla gravfelt” with its graves, wells and hollows dating back to the Stone Age, Bronze Age and late Iron Age. The area is over 120ha. There is an information board in the area.
The longest marked pathway to be found in Norway starts in Stavern. This 35km pathway will take you past 17 campsites, 3000 summer cabins and a totally unspoilt stretch of coast line. Experience the exhilarating sea air as you explore this truly unique area.
On your walk you will pass through Brunlanes, an area of historical interest. Archeological finds tell us that this area was inhabitated thousands of years ago. Finds at Austein farm prove that people settled in this area at the end of the ice age, approx. 10 000 years ago. Few places in Norway can boast of finds dating back to the stone and iron ages.
The coastal path passes small fishing villages such as Nevlunghavn and Helgeroa. You will find impressive rock formations dating back to the iron age in this area. The botanical and geographical features around here are sights to behold. Other places of interest include a stone church and an old mill, both built in the 1700’s. The latter has been restored and now houses a village museum.
Places of interest
Ferdriksvern Fortress is located in Stavern, outside Larvik in Vestfold. There are guided tours all year and several art exhibitions to choose from.
Entrance to the dockyard from Tollbodgaten street, next to Hotel Wassilioff.
Galleries and museums
There are several permanent galleries and museums at Fredriksvern Dockyard:
Jan Olav Forberg of Atelier Forberg works with a special technique called flame painting, which he has developed himself. Jan Olav Forberg employs a wide variety of other techniques, such as painting and various print techniques besides his own flame painting technique. His gallery at Fredriksvern Dockyard is located in the old ‘Plankekokeriet’ in the red house to the left before the bridge.
Laila Leknes is a potter who moved from Trondheim to Stavern in 1988. She runs her own gallery called Galleri Laila, and contributes to the Stavern Kunst exhibitions in the Stone Barracks. Laila Leknes is a graduate of Trondheim School of Art, Oslo National Academy of the Arts, and has also studied architecture. Her many works and public commissions include a gift to HM King Olav from the Directorate of National Heritage, the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation’s canteen in Oslo, and coats of arms for various cities.
Kjell Raugland has his own gallery, studio and workshop for silkscreen printing in Stavern town. He also exhibits his work in the Stone Barracks at Fredriksvern Dockyard together with other members of Stavern Kunst art association. Kjell Raugland works with different techniques in drawings, paintings and prints. He has participated in several joint and solo exhibitions in Norway and abroad, such as the national Autumn Exhibition.
Fritz Helge Nyegaard
Fritz Helge Nyegaard exhibits his pictures in Galleri Kringla, in addition to participating in Stavern Kunst’s joint exhibitions in the Stone Barracks at Fredriksvern Dockyard. Nyegaard has participated in the national Autumn Exhibition and has had solo and joint exhibitions since 1974. He is educated at Oslo National Academy of the Arts and the workshops of the Directorate of National Heritage in Oslo.
Designjern (design iron) is run by Camilla and Jan Warholm who exhibit their works in the Stone Barracks with the other members of Stavern Kunst. The exhibition includes candlesticks, sculptures, furniture and ornaments. They mainly work in iron and acid-proof steel with inlays of glass, stone, wood and mirrors.
Galleri Winther displays thematic exhibitions in the Stone Barracks, based on photographs on canvas
Øyunn Winther employs different techniques and expressions in pictures and other elements, often exposed in a new and different setting. Claude Monet’s water reflections is one source of inspiration, as is notable in her decorations for Berg church.
The old Stone Barracks also house glass artist Kai Hoffstad and his abstract and vibrantly colourful works of art in glass. He works with warm glass and fusing, in sculptures and artware. Kai Hoffstad has had commissions for glass artware to the Norwegian and Danish Courts. His works have also been bought by the Prime Minister’s Office, the National Museum of Decorative Arts in Trondheim, and by private collectors in Norway and abroad.
The Maritime History Storehouse is a fascinating mixture of gallery and museum; a place for experiences and in-depth studies. Galley Shed 12 dates back to 1765 and is a veritable treasure chest from Norway’s ocean-faring past. Norway’s past 1,000 years as a sea-faring nation is documented in art and photographs, sculptures and objects. The maritime exhibition in Galley Shed 12 contains fragments of Norway’s maritime cultural history. On exhibit are old documents, objects and remains of wreckages. For Norwegian forebears, the sea represented a route to a different world. The ships brought back unfamiliar scents and spices, rhythms, colours, and new ways of thinking.
The Galley Museum
This museum exhibits miniature models of all vessels built by the dockyard. On display is also a model of the dockyard as it used to look in 1814, built to the scale of 1:100. The Galley Museum is housed in Galley Shed 16 (nearest to the Corntin bay) and records the dockyard’s three epochs, when the Navy, Army and Air Defence were active here. In other words, the museum deals with the Defence activities at the Dockyards from 1750 until 2002.
The Tordenskiold’s Soldiers Association in Stavern
The association was established in the autumn of 1991 with the purpose of organising an annual re-enactment of the
Battle of Dynekil – to entertain the audience as well as themselves. The association is located in the Cadet Barracks and is open to the public in the high season. Every July, the Battle of Dynekil is re-enacted in the harbour basin off Fredriksvern by a group of happy amateurs from Tordenskiold’s Soldiers and a handful of smaller vessels.
The Naval Brig Fredriksværn is a foundation aiming to increase awareness of a critical period in Scandinavian history by building a true replica of the naval brig ”Friderichsværn” from 1814. Fredriksvern Dockyard was Norway’s first site of formal education for marine architects and shipbuilders, making the old dockyards the perfect setting for this project.
The Friends of Old Stavern (VGS)
Is an association dedicated to preserving the history of Stavern and Fredriksvern and the surrounding areas. The association has mounted a permanent photo exhibition in the Cadet Barracks, which is open to the public during the high season.
How to get to Stavern?
Take the E18 Highway to Larvik (either from Kristiansand in the south or Oslo in the north), then take the RV 301 Road to Stavern. Parking in the Stavern town centre.
Feature image (on top): Nevlunghavn, Stavern
The Dimple of Norway, compiled by Admin