When Crown Prince Carl Johan first arrived in Christiania (now Oslo) in November 1814, a few days after he had become heir to the Norwegian throne, he found a provincial town with less than 11,000 inhabitants and no public buildings of any significance. When he died thirty years later, Christiania had been transformed into a capital worthy of an independent kingdom and its population had been more than doubled.
The development of Christiania as the capital of Norway in the years following independence in 1814 and the role which Carl XIV Johan played in this process are the theme of my article “Kongens nye hovedstad: Carl Johan, Christiania og arkitektene i Norges demring” in St. Hallvard no 3+4 – 2010, which after a severe delay is on sale from today. Meanwhile a much shorter version appeared in Aften in connection with the Bernadotte bicentenary last autumn, but this is the full version, running to 26 pages.
In fact this is one of the aspects of Carl XIV Johan’s story where the Norwegian side is more interesting than the Swedish. Very little was built in Stockholm during his reign, but in Christiania he had the opportunity to shape an entire capital and in doing so he proved his understanding of how monumental architecture and city planning could be employed as manifestations of the monarch’s image.
The architects who figured most prominently in this process were Hans D. F. Linstow, who the King chose to be the Royal Palace’s architect, and Christian Heinrich Grosch. Linstow drew up the city plan and built the Palace, while Grosch was responsible for most of the other monumental buildings of the era.
Such was Carl Johan’s influence on the development of the Norwegian capital that it is only natural that its main street, itself a product of this process, bears his name to this date and that an equestrian statue of the late monarch looks out over his capital from its plinth in front of the Royal Palace at the top of that street.