Second largest city of Norway and “capital” of the West Coast.
International port (“Exterior office” of the Hanseatic League)
Location and site
On the western coast of Norway, the Bryggen harbour quarter occupies the north eastern bank of the natural harbour Vagen.
The spatial configuration of the Bryggen quarter is determined by its function as harbour quarter, tailor made for the sea trade. It consists of long parallel rows of buildings with gables facing the waterfront, separated by passages. These passages functioned as courtyards, where the goods were brought inn from the merchant ships and distributed up into the various warehouses.
The Bryggen quarter has through the years been devastated by numerous fires. Among the worst are the historically recorded fires of 1198, 1248, 1476 and 1702. The district was, however, rebuilt along the same town plan, within the same property boundaries using the building remains as foundations, and with traditional material and techniques. Thus, the present quarter stands on an “urban history book” of archaeological deposits more than 8m thick and containing information of mare than 600 years of harbour activity.
The Bryggen quarter today consists of 62 buildings, the majority wooden knotted timber structures covered with panelling, and with external staircases and galleries opening out on the passages. In the inner part of the settlement, stone buildings were used as “safes” to protect the more valuable goods from the many fires.
Even though the present tenements were erected after the fire of 1702, the Bryggen district has retained its medieval harbour character.
Criterion (iii): Bryggen bears the traces of social organization and illustrates the use of space in a quarter of Hanseatic merchants that dates back to the 14th century. It is a type of northern “fondaco”, unequalled in the world, where the structures have remained within the cityscape and perpetuate the memory of one of the oldest large trading ports of Northern Europe.
- The harbour Vagen was the basis for the town’s economy, and in time it made Bergen one of Northern Europe’s most important ports – the natural nexus of the coastal trade with Western and Arctic Norway and international maritime commerce.
- During the first half of the Middle Ages Bergen was the political capital of Norway, and it retained its status as the major port of Scandinavia when the capital was moved to Oslo.
- During the 14th century merchants from the German Hanseatic League settled in Bergen and established their trading headquarter in the old waterfront district Bryggen. Bergen became one of their four most important ports outside the Hanseatic towns, with the status of “Kontor” (Office).Through the extraction of royal privileges, the Hansa merchants acquired control of the Norwegian trade.
- The Hanseatic League was formally abolished from Bergen in 1559, and the merchants forced to leave or to take Norwegian citizenship. A “German Kontor” was established to keep up the German merchants’ activity. This institution existed until 1754, when it was replaced by the “Norwegian Kontor”, but still with merchants of German origin.