Vardøhus Fortress, Vardo, Finnmark, Norway 

In 1251, an embassy from the Republic of Novgorod to King Haakon IV Haakonson of Norway complained of clashes between the Norwegians and the Karelians in northern Finnmark. A Norwegian embassy was dispatched to Novgorod where a treaty (the original of which is unfortunately now lost) was signed to conclude a peace between the two countries, including the Novgorod tributary land of Karelia. The first fortification was erected by Haakon V Magnusson in 1306 and was called Varghøya. It is not known how long this fort was manned, but in 1307 the Archbishop of Trondhjem went to Vardøhus to consecrate the new Vardø Church. The earliest record still extant which defines the border between Norway and Russia is from 1326. In 1340, records show the Archbishop made further efforts to improve conditions there.

The second fortification to be built was in Østervågen (the ‘East Bay’) which was erected between 1450 and 1500. This fortification was rectangular with two corner bastions. It appears on various maps from the 14th and 15th century.The Captain of Vardøhus owned a share of the fishery.

By the 1730s, Vardøhus had become decrepit. The seat of government of Finnmark was transferred from Vardøhus to Altengaard. Major upgrades to the current fortress began in 1738. Vardøhus never saw enemy action until the 20th century. The last time the fortifications were on active anti-invasion duty was during the First World War. During the period from the beginning of the Second World War to the German invasion of Norway Vardøhus Fortress was an active unit under the command of Naval District no. 3 in Tromsø.

Epic Norway Culture & Adventure Route © Monika Newbound

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