Where Paris has Père Lachaise, Oslo has the Cemetery of Our Saviour. Père Lachaise was established when Napoléon I took the consequences of the unhygienic fact that the graveyards within Paris were literally filled to the bursting point. The same development was seen in other European cities at the same time and Christiania (now Oslo) followed suit in 1807 with the establishment of a cemetery north of the town, which was inaugurated on 17 June 1808. For several years it was the only cemetery in Christiania and it was extended in 1811, 1824, 1865, 1873 and 1881.
In 1903 it was decided to establish a Grove of Honour where some of the nation’s great would be buried. In the Grove of Honour are such names as Henrik Ibsen (first and second photos) and Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson (background of fourth photo), the giants of Norwegian literature at the end of the nineteenth century; the composer Rikard Nordraak, best remembered for having composed the national anthem; Prime Ministers Johan Sverdrup (who led the first parliamentary government) and Jørgen Løvland (earlier Norway’s first Foreign Minister); Carl Joachim Hambro (sixth photo), the wartime Speaker of Parliament; painters Edvard Munch (third photo), Christian and Oda Krohg, Hans Gude and Erik Werenskiold; the labour movement leaders Marcus Thrane and Martin Tranmæl; authors Herman Wildenwey, Sigurd Hoel and Arnulf Øverland; the actress Johanne Dybwad and several others.
Foreign tourists one meets when crossing the cemetery will generally ask for directions to the graves of Henrik Ibsen and Edvard Munch. Without mentioning any names one might perhaps be allowed to say that not all those interred in the Grove of Honour are persons who have been considered as great by posterity as by their contemporaries. There will anyhow be no further burials in the Grove of Honour as it is meant to represent the nation building of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
The late origin of the idea of a Grove of Honour means that several notable Norwegians are buried elsewhere at the cemetery. Among them are the poets Henrik Wergeland (fifth photo) and Johan Sebastian Welhaven; the politician Anton Martin Schweigaard; Prime Ministers Frederik Due, Oscar Torp and Jan P. Syse; the fairy tale collector Peter Christen Asbjørnsen; Colonel Georg Stang (seventh photo); the authors Camilla Collett and Oskar Braaten; the mathematician Sophus Lie; the historian Ernst Sars; the feminists Gina Krog and Aasta Hansteen; Thomas Konow and several other members of the Constituent Assembly of 1814; General Carl Gustav Fleischer, who inflicted the first major defeat on Nazi Germany at Narvik; Anna Rogstad, the first female MP; architects Christian Heinrich Grosch (eighth photo) and Wilhelm von Hanno; psalm writers Magnus B. Landstad and Elias Blix; the art historian Lorentz Dietrichson, and many more.
And then there are of course thousands of “ordinary citizens”. The fact that the cemetery is almost full means that permission for the creation of new burial sites is seldom given, which also means that there are many multi-generational family graves. Among those buried in such family graves is Ingeborg Hesselberg-Meyer (the first wife of Princess Astrid’s husband Johan Martin Ferner), who is buried in the family grave seen in the last photo.
But there are also many “absentees” among the great Norwegians. Long-time Prime Minister Einar Gerhardsen is buried at the Western Cemetery in Oslo, his predecessor Christian Michelsen was laid to rest in his beloved hometown Bergen, while the members of the royal family rest in the Royal Mausoleum at Akershus Castle. The author Knut Hamsun, who probably joins Ibsen and Munch as the internationally most well-known Norwegians, made himself impossible because of his Nazi sympathies during World War II and was interred at his estate Nørholm in Grimstad. The polar explorer Fridtjof Nansen is similarly buried in the garden of his estate Polhøgda at Lysaker, while the remains of Roald Amundsen, the conqueror of the South Pole, have never been found.