Guide to Håkon´s Hall

Welcome to Håkon´s Hall. This is a little digital brochure which is convenient since there are no exhibitions with information in the hall.

Here are some things you can experience in Håkon´s Hall, followed by a brief history of the building.

Experience the architecture

In Håkon´s Hall the architecture is the main experience. Start by going up the main stairs from the reception, and have a look at the arkitekturen som er hovedfokuset. Du starter ved å gå opp trappen fra resepsjonen and have a look at the model that shows Bergenhus approx. year 1300, and then we recommend that you continue down the stairs to the left.

The basements

This guide will take you through all three floors. In the basement you can see a model showing the damage the buildings suffered after the explosion accident on 20 April 1944. Down here you can also see traces in the walls of work carried out after a fire in 1266. The beautiful stone vaulted roof above you was put in then as a fire protection.

The mid room

When you have passed the cellars, follow the stairs up to the mezzanine floor. The middle room was probably used as workrooms for the king’s men. The large window niches here were used as workplaces. The woven carpets that hang here are from Sigrun Berg’s weaving factory. The furniture here is from the 60s and is used for large dinners and other events.

Further through the hall you can choose the guard’s passage which takes you up a narrow stone staircase in the southern wall up to the hall.

The Hall

You have now arrived at the magnificent banquet and representation hall, where, among other things, three royal weddings took place in the 13th century.

Here you can also see the woven carpets from Sigrun Berg (the prim staff) and Synnøve Anker Aurdal (the high seat carpet and the music gallery).

The stairs

On your way out, follow the grand stone staircase. Halfway down there are some large pictures, one from the explosion accident and one from the re-opening on 14 September 1961.

Here you can see how the hall is still set for dinners with tables, tablecloths and silverware. The royal family still uses the hall and so it is still in use for the same purposes Håkon Håkonsson built it for in the middle of the 13th century.

The way the hall is presented today is the result of the restoration after the explosion accident, and both the building itself and the inventory are listed.

A brief history of Håkon’s Hall

In 1247, Håkon Håkonsson’s coronation celebrations had to be held in a large boathouse, which was hardly worthy of a king. He therefore commissioned the building of Håkon’s Hall. In 1261, Magnus the Lawmender and Danish princess Ingeborg were able to celebrate both their wedding and coronation in the new stone hall, as told in Håkon Håkonsson’s saga.

The magnificent hall was used for entertaining and celebrating important events. The original main entrance to the hall was the portal up on the south gable wall, which leads directly into the banquet hall on the third floor. A system of stairs and external covered galleries provided access to the portal from outside.

Two other royal weddings took place here in the Middle Ages. Eirik Magnusson married Scottish Margrete Aleksandersdatter in 1281 and another Scot, Isabella Bruce, in 1293.

Accommodation for soldiers in the 17th century

In the 17th century, the hall was without a roof for a long time and small huts were erected for the soldiers stationed at the fortress. In around 1680, it was used as a military warehouse, which ultimately saved the hall. It was given a new roof, initially a double roof and later a gable roof.

Restoring Håkon´s Hall in the 19th century

In the 19th century, the hall was rediscovered by Lyder Sagen and J.C. Dahl and was eventually restored to its medieval appearance in the 1880s. From 1910 to 1916, it was richly decorated by artist Gerhard Munthe.

20th century

The explosion in the harbour in 1944 led to the hall’s roof collapsing and the interior being ravaged by fire. Its restoration was completed in 1961, and all of the furniture and timber in the hall today date from that period. The roof construction is typical of the Middle Ages, copied from the roof truss of Værnes Church in Nord-Trøndelag.

The windows and blind arcades on the north wall, where the king’s throne stood, have been rebuilt based on archaeological traces, and the reconstruction of the windows in the west wall is accurate. The old masonry generally comes to a little below the top edge of the long walls. The gables, on the other hand, had to be rebuilt, as the hall had a hipped roof while it was used as a warehouse. The crow-step gables have been rebuilt based on the oldest preserved depiction of Bergen, the Scholeus map from around 1580.

With a floor area of 37 x 16.4 metres and three floors, Håkon’s Hall is the largest secular building from the Middle Ages still standing in Norway. It is built of local quarried stone with soapstone corners and portal and window frames, and was probably modelled on Gothic stone halls in England.

Today, the hall is again used to celebrate important occasions and is widely used for concerts.

Brief information about the cellar and middle floor

During the Middle Ages, the cellar was used as a storage room. In the two northernmost rooms, you can see the bedrock sticking up from the floor. The cellar had a dirt floor and the only source of light was the small windows you can see along the long wall. In the northern room, there is also an original well in the middle of the short wall.

In the Middle Ages, the cellar and middle floor were completely separate. If you stand in the middle room and look up at the wall, you will see grey soapstone sticking out. This was the position of the original roof, where beams and longitudinal beams rested on the soapstone pillars that stand in the middle of the room.

New stone ceiling after a fire in 1266

In 1266, the hall was ravaged by fire, and work subsequently got underway on the wonderful vaulted stone ceiling, as fire protection between the floors. Take a look up at the ceiling and admire the great work of the craftsmen of the day.

The ceiling height in the middle floor was reduced by the new vaulted ceiling, so the floor was lowered slightly. If you look at the wall a little below the grey soapstone that supported the original roof, you can see some white protrusions. This became the foundation for the new floor. Since the cellar was used as a warehouse, it did not need a good ceiling height, while the middle floor, which was used as a living and working space, did.

The beautiful window recesses on the middle floor were probably used as work areas to take advantage of the daylight. Håkon Håkonsson was, among other things, concerned with translating courtly literature, while his son, Magnus the Lawmender saw to, among other things, the writing of the Land Law of 1274 and the City Law of 1276.

Storage rooms in the 16th century

From the 16th century onwards, when Bergenhus was under Danish administration, the entire hall was converted into a warehouse. The old royal hall went on to house 1,000 barrels of grain and cannons, among other things. Old openings were bricked up and new ones opened, depending on needs. Among other things, a large entrance was created in the middle of the west wall to make room for cannons to be wheeled in and stored.

Church for prisoners in the 19th century

In 1840, the middle room in the cellar was used as a church for the prisoners serving time in Slaveriet, a penal institution established in 1739 on the north-west side of Håkon’s Hall. Two large windows facing Vågen were then knocked out, traces of which can still be seen on the outside of the hall.

The tables and chairs that stand here are protected by law, and are used during events.

The textiles

The cloth on the table in front of the throne was woven by Synnøve Aurdal. Its Gothic forms are taken from the hall’s architecture, and it otherwise features the cosmos, the sky with gods and kings, rain and stars, the sea with boats and prows and plant life with plants and grains.

The frieze and tapestry covering the east wall were woven by Sigrun Berg. The frieze shows the primstaff, which is a perpetual calendar dating far back in time. Consisting of 72 different symbols, it is read from left to right and starts on 14 April, the first day of summer. The tapestry below it features a combination of different plant motifs and pure geometric patterns.

A tapestry woven by Synnøve Aurdal hangs in the music gallery on the south gable wall. It is based on a drawing made by her husband, Ludvig Eikaas. It shows large boat-like figures crossing each other, creating movement in the textile.

Quiz: Fortress puzzle

Get a fortress puzzle for free in the reception and answer questions about the fortress. Tip: the answers can be found in the outdoor area. If you want to go for a walk on the fortress, you can get a fortress trail at the reception, with a map and information about the buildings and the area.