1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Bergen

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BERGEN, a city and seaport of Norway, forming a separate county (amt), on the west coast, in lat. 60° 23′ N. (about that of the Shetland Islands). Pop. (1900) 72,179. It lies at the head of the broad Byfjord, and partly on a rocky promontory (Nordnaes) between the fine harbour (Vaagen) and the Puddefjord. Its situation is very beautiful, the moist climate (mean annual rainfall, 74 in.) fostering on the steep surrounding hills a vegetation unusually luxuriant for the latitude. Behind the town lie the greater and lesser Lungegaard Lakes, so that the site is in effect a peninsula. The harbour is crowded with picturesque timber-ships and fishing-smacks, and is bordered by quays. The principal street is Strandgaden, on the Nordnaes, parallel with the harbour, communicating inland with the torv or marketplace, which fronts the harbour and contains the fish and fruit market. The portion of the city on the mainland rises in an amphitheatre. The houses, of wood or stucco, are painted in warm reds and yellows. On the banks of the lesser Lungegaard Lake is the small town park, and above the greater lake the pleasant Nygaards park, with an aquarium adjoining. Among the principal buildings are the cathedral (rebuilt in the 16th century), and several other churches, among which the Mariae Kirke with its Romanesque nave is the earliest; a hospital, diocesan college, naval academy, school of design and a theatre. An observatory and biological station are maintained. The museums are of great interest. The Vestlandske fishery and industrial museum also contains a picture gallery, and exhibition of the Bergen Art Union (Kunstforening). The Bergen museum contains antiquities and a natural history collection. The Hanseatic museum is housed in a carefully-preserved gaard, or store-house and offices of the Hanseatic League of German merchants, who inhabited the German quarter (Tydskenbryggen) and were established here in great strength from 1445 to 1558 (when the Norwegians began to find their presence irksome), and brought much prosperity to the city in that period. The Bergenhus and Fredriksberg forts defend the north and south entries of the harbour respectively. The first was originally built in the 13th century by King Haakon Haakonsson, and subsequently enlarged; and still bears marks of an English attack when a Dutch fleet was driven to shelter here in 1665. Near it are remains of another old fort, the Sverresborg. Electric trams ply in the principal streets.

Bergen is the birthplace of the poets Ludvig Holberg (1684-1754) and Johan Welhaven (1807-1873), of Johan Dahl the painter (1788-1857), of Ole Bull (1810-1880) and Edvard Grieg the musicians. There are statues to Holberg and Bull, and also to Christie, president of the Storthing (parliament) in 1815 and 1818. Bergen ranks first of the Norwegian ship-owning centres, having risen to this position from fifth in 1879. The trade, however, is exceeded by that of Christiania. The staple export trade is in fish and their products: other exports are butter, copper ore and hides. The principal imports are coal, machinery, salt, grain and provisions. The manufactures are not extensive, but the preparation of fish products, shipbuilding, weaving and distillery, with manufactures of paper, pottery, tobacco and ropes are carried on. Bergen is an important centre of the extensive tourist traffic of Norway. Regular steamers serve the port from Hull and Newcastle (about 40 hours), from Hamburg, and from all the Norwegian coast towns. Many local steamers penetrate the fjords, touching at every village and gaard. Bergen is the nearest port to the famous Hardanger Fjord, and is the starting-point of a remarkable railway which runs through many tunnels and fine scenery towards Vossevangen or Voss. In 1896 a beginning was made with the continuation of this line through the mountains to connect with Christiania. In the first 50 m. from Voss the line ascends 4080 ft., passing through a tunnel 5796 yds. long.

Bergen (formerly Björgvin) was founded by King Olaf Kyrre in 1070-1075, and rapidly grew to importance, the Byfjord becoming the scene of several important engagements in the civil wars of subsequent centuries. The famous Hansa merchants maintained a failing position here till 1764. The town suffered frequently from fire, as in 1702 and 1855, and the broad open spaces (Almenninge) which interrupt the streets are intended as a safeguard against the spread of flames.

See Y. Nielsen, Bergen fra die äldste tider indtil nutiden (Christiania, 1877); H. Jager, Bergen og Bergenserne (Bergen, 1889).