1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Christiania

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CHRISTIANIA (officially Kristiania), the capital of Norway, forming a separate county (amt), and the seat of a bishopric (stift). Pop. (1901) 229,101. It lies on the south-eastern coast, at the head of Christiania Fjord, about 80 m. from the open waters of the Skagerrack, is 59° 54′ N. (about the latitude of the southern extremity of the Shetland Islands) and 10° 45′ E., mainly on the west bank of the small Aker river. The situation is very beautiful, pine-wooded hills rising sharply behind the city, while several islands stud the fjord. The town is mainly modern, having increased rapidly in and since the second half of the 19th century, when brick and stone largely superseded wood as the building material. It is the seat of government, of the supreme courts, of the parliament (Storthing), and of a university. The harbour is of two parts, the Björvik, where the larger steamers lie, and the Pipervik, west of this. On the promontory intervening between these two inlets stands the old fortress of Akershus, occupied as an arsenal and prison, and having a pleasant promenade upon its ramparts. Until 1719 it was a royal palace. At the head of the Björvik the principal railway station (Hovedbanegaard) stands in the Jernbanetorv (railway square), and north-west from this runs the principal street, Karl-Johans-gade. In this street, passing the Vor Frelsers Kirke (Church of our Saviour), the Storthings-Bygning (parliament-house, 1866) is seen, facing a handsome square planted with trees. Beyond this is the National theatre (1899), with colossal statues of the dramatists Ibsen and Björnsen. It faces the Fridericiana University, housed in three buildings dating from 1853, but founded by Frederick VI. of Denmark in 1811, embracing the five faculties of theology, law, medicine, history and philology, mathematics and natural sciences. The equipment of the university is very complete: it has attached to it a large and valuable library, natural history, ethnological and numismatic collections, with one of Scandinavian antiquities; also botanical gardens and an observatory. The Karl-Johans-gade gives upon the beautiful Slotspark, a wooded elevation crowned with the royal palace (slot), a plain building completed in 1848. North of the university is the museum of art, containing a noteworthy collection of sculpture and paintings of ancient and modern foreign masters, and of native works. The historical museum adjoining this contains northern antiquities, including two viking’s ships, excavated, in 1867 and 1880 respectively, from the burial-places of the viking chiefs who owned and, according to custom, were buried in them. Another noteworthy collection is that of industrial art. The Bank of Norway, the exchange, and the courts of law lie between the harbours. Other institutions are the Freemasons’ Lodge, housed in one of the handsomest buildings in the city (1844), a conservatory of music, naval, military and art schools, Athenaeum, and the great Dampkjökken or kitchen (1858), where dinners are provided for the poor.

The suburbs of Christiania are attractive and rapidly growing. On the east side of the river Aker is that of Oslo, with the existing episcopal palace, and an old bishop’s palace, in which James VI. of Scotland (I. of England) was betrothed to Princess Anne of Denmark (1589). In the environs of the city are the royal pleasure castle of Oscarshal (1847–1852), on the peninsula Bygdö (Ladugaard) to the west of the city, and the Norwegian national museum (1881), containing industrial and domestic exhibits from the various provinces. Close at hand is an interesting collection of old Norwegian buildings, brought here from all parts, and re-erected, including an example of the timber church of the 12th century (Stavekirke). A collection of ancient agricultural implements is also shown. On Hovedö (Head Island) in the fjord, immediately opposite to the Akershus, are the ruins of a Cistercian monastery, founded in 1147 by monks from Kirkstead in Lincolnshire, England, and burnt down in 1532. There are sanatoria and inns among the surrounding hills, on which beautiful gardens are laid out, such as Hans Haugen, Frognersaeter, Holmenkollen, where the famous ski (snow-shoe) races are held in February, and Voksenkollen. Electric tramways connect the city and suburbs, and local steamers run from the Pipervik to the neighbouring islands and fjord-side towns and villages.

Christiania has two railway stations, the Hovedbanegaard by the Björvik, and the Vestbanegaard by the Pipervik. From the first trains run south to Fredrikshald and Gothenburg, east to Charlottenberg and Stockholm, north to Hamar and Trondhjem, and Otta in Gudbrandsdal, and to Gjövik and the Valdres district. From the west station start the lines to Drammen, Laurvik, Skien and Kongsberg (for the Telemark district). The eastward extension of the railway between Bergen and Vossevangen, undertaken in 1896, had as its ultimate object the connexion of Christiania and Bergen by rail. With these extensive land communications Christiania is at once the principal emporium of southern Norway, and a favourite centre of the extensive tourist traffic. Regular passenger steamers serve the port from Hull, Newcastle, Grangemouth and London, from Trondhjem, Bergen and the Norwegian coast towns, from Hamburg, Amsterdam, Antwerp, &c. Except for two large shipbuilding yards, one with a floating dock, the other with a dry dock, most of the manufactories are concentrated in the suburb of Sagene, on the north side of the city, deriving their motive power from the numerous falls of the river Aker. They embrace factories for cotton and woollen spinning and weaving, paper, flour, soap and oil, bricks and tiles, matches, nails (especially horse-shoe nails), margarine, foundries and engineering shops, wood-pulp, tobacco, matches, linen, glass, sail-cloth, hardware, gunpowder, chemicals, with sawmills, breweries and distilleries. There is also a busy trade in the preparation of granite paving-stones, and in the storing and packing of ice. Imports greatly exceed exports, the annual values being about 71/2 and 11/2 millions sterling respectively. The former consist principally of grain and flour, cottons and woollens, coffee, iron (raw and manufactured), coal, bacon and salt meat, oils, sugar, machinery, flax, jute and hemp, paper-hangings, paints, colours, &c., wines and spirits, raw tobacco, copper, zinc, lead and tin, silk, molasses and other commodities. The principal exports are wood-pulp, timber, nails, paper, butter and margarine, matches, condensed milk, fish, leather and hides, ice, sealskins, &c. Of the imports, Great Britain supplies the greater part of the cotton and woollen yarn, the machinery (including ships), and the raw metals; the United States about one-half of the oils and fats, and a large proportion of the food-stuffs, and skins, feathers, &c. Of the exports, almost the whole of the timber goes to Great Britain, together with the larger portion of the paper and food-stuffs (butter, &c.). The harbour is ice-bound for three or four months in the winter, when ships lie at Dröbak, lower down the fjord; but ice-breakers are also used. Early in 1899 the municipality voted £47,000 for the construction of a pier, a harbour for fishing-boats, protected by a mole, and a quay, 345 ft. long, on the shore underneath the Akershus. These works signalized a great scheme of improvement, involving a general rearrangement of the entire harbour.

The present suburb of Oslo represents the original city, which was founded on this site under that name (or Opslo) by Harald Sigurdsson in 1048. By the close of the 14th century it was established as the chief city of Norway. Trade was long dominated by the powerful Hanseatic League, at least until the beginning of the 16th century. The town, built mainly of wood, was no less subject to fires than all Norwegian towns have always been, and after one of these King Christian IV. refounded the capital on the new site it now occupies, and gave his name to it in 1624. By the close of the century it was fortified, but this did not prevent Charles XII. from gaining possession of it in 1716.

See L. Daae, Det gamle Christiania, 1624–1824 (Christiania, 1890); Y. Nielsen, Christiania und Umgegend (Christiania, 1894); G. Amnéus, La Ville de Christiania . . . Résumé historique, &c. (Christiania, 1900).