Thursday, 22 May 2014

On this date: Oslo's 200th anniversary as capital

200 years ago today, on 22 May 1814, King Christian Frederik took up residence in Christiania, as Oslo was then called, an event which might be considered the date when Oslo became the capital of independent Norway. Following the Danish renunciation of Norway on 14 January 1814 Norwegian ministries had begun their work in Christiania on 3 March, and on 19 May, the day he accepted the Crown of Norway, Christian Frederik formally founded the first ministries. With ministries established in Christiania and the King in residence, the town may rightly be called a capital.
Christiania was at that time a small provincial town of some 10,000 inhabitants. Except for the derelict Akershus Castle and the Church of Our Saviour (now Oslo Cathedral) there were few buildings of any significance, but the following years saw Christiania expanded and rebuilt into a capital worthy of an independent kingdom, a process in which King Carl Johan played a decisive role.
Oslo dates from about the year 1000, and grew in importance towards the end of the thirteenth and beginning of the fourteenth century, although it is incorrect, as some amateur historians have argued strongly, that Oslo may be considered the capital of Norway from the year 1314, when King Håkon V Magnusson made the Provost of St Mary's Church his chancellor. At that time the concept of a capital did not yet exist and the monarchy remained peripatetic for another three centuries or so, by which time Norway had lost its independence and become a Danish province.
In 1814 it was not yet the largest city (a qualification which belonged to Bergen), but its proximity to Denmark meant that it had become more important during Danish rule and it was in Christiania that a government commission was set up when communications between Denmark and Norway became very difficult because of the Napoleonic Wars and the British blockade from 1807.

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