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04.03.2020

Haakon's Hall

Haakon's Hall (Norwegian: Håkonshallen) is a medieval stone hall located inside the fortress. The hall was constructed in the middle of the 13th century, during the reign of King Håkon Håkonsson (1217–1263). In medieval times, it was the largest building of the royal palace in Bergen. It is the largest secular medieval building in Norway and the likely inspiration to similar great halls that were built on the royal estates in Oslo and Avaldsnes. 

No written records survive of the construction of the hall. According to Håkon Håkonsson's saga the building was not there at the coronation of King Håkon in 1247. It does, however, state that it was used during the wedding celebrations of King Magnus Håkonsson and the Danish princess Ingebjørg Eriksdatter on 11 September 1261. The hall is built in Gothic style. In addition to the great hall, there were two more levels, a cellar and a middle floor. The hall's similarity to English structures of the same time, and the fact that monumental stone building was relatively uncommon in Norway at the time, has led to an assumption that the hall was designed by English architects, possibly the court architect of King Henry III of England, with whom King Håkon was on friendly terms.

The hall has been hit by several fires, the first one as early as 1266. Upon the death of King Eirik Magnusson in 1299, Bergen lost its status as the main royal residence. From 1380 until 1814, Norway was in a personal union with Denmark, which meant that the royal castle in Bergen gradually fell into decay. In 1429 it was captured and burnt by the Victual Brothers (viktualiebrødrene), but a new stone portal from the mid-15th century shows that the hall was rebuilt after this event. Soon after, however, as the old royal residence was transformed into a purely military fortress, the Hall was turned into a storage building.

By the 18th century, its original function had been largely forgotten. However, the 19th century saw the rise of Norwegian romantic nationalism as the country gradually regained its independence. As a result, the independent medieval kingdom was used as a source of new national symbols to rally around. In 1840, it was proven that the great stone building in Bergenhus fortress was, in fact, King Håkon Håkonsson's old feast hall. For the next half century, its restoration back to its original function was debated. Henrik Ibsen wrote a poem in the hall's honor, and poet Henrik Wergeland first used the name Haakons hall in one of his poems. The hall was finally restored in the 1890s, and in the 1910s it was decorated with frescos with motives from Håkon Håkonsson's saga, and stained glass windows.

The hall was severely damaged on 20 April 1944, when the wooden roof caught fire and burnt up. The fire also destroyed all the decorations from the first restoration. A second restoration took place in the 1950s, and the hall was reopened on 11 September 1961, the 700th anniversary of its first use. It is now decorated more discreetly, primarily with tapestries. Haakon's Hall is now administered by the Bergen City Museum, which also takes care of Rosenkrantz Tower and other protected buildings in the city. The hall is occasionally used for concerts, especially choir song and chamber music, and for banquets, mainly for official functions.

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