Stortinget Tour

24 10 2011

A couple weeks ago, when we were learning about architecture, my Norwegian Art History class took a walking tour around parts of Oslo. We covered the Town Hall, Akershus Castle, and the Stortinget.

My favorite place out of all three was definitely the Stortinget. It is the Norwegian parliament building and is located right on Karl Johan’s Gate; needless to say, I’ve walked by it more than a few times. I’ve always particularly enjoyed this building and was very excited once I found out we were going to get to tour it for class! Our professor worked at the Stortinget so we even got our own private tour and he was an excellent tour guide!

Our tour started out in the back building which was remodeled into mostly offices. Our tour of the Stortinget actually ended up being more about history than architecture, but it was all very interesting. We got to see an exact replica of the Norwegian Constitution, which is the second oldest written constitution in use in the world. (It’s only second to the U.S. Constitution:)) There were also portraits of most of the founding fathers and our professor seemed to be very passionate about Norwegian history.

We then went downstairs by the main front entrance of the building and covered some information about the history of the kings of Norway and a few pieces of art work that were in the building. When we made it upstairs, we were checking out a room that is now mostly used for receptions and what not and our professor was explaining the different decorations, art work, and busts in the room when an older Norwegian man came into the room. He walked right behind us across the room and said something in Norwegian to our professor, to which he replied, “Nei, nei, nei.” (No, no, no.) As soon as the man was out of the room, our professor explained who the man was. Turns out he was the President of Parliament! He’s only second to the King of Norway! Our professor said that when he walked in, he apologized and said “I hope I’m not disturbing you.” Our professor was a little star struck, but said that it was not uncommon for Norwegian politicians to be that humble!

After that room, we made our way to a small room right next to the main assembly room. In that room, there is a door that leads into the main assembly room and is called the “King’s Door.” It is only opened once a year when the King comes to open the session of Parliament. So of course we had to use the regular entrance.

The main assembly room is gorgeous. My words will not do it justice – check out the photos! While we were in here, our professor explained a little bit about some of the processes of the parliament. Only one person can speak at a time; when someone wants to speak they must raise their hand and wait for their named to be called at which point they can go up front to the podium. Everyone in the room must be completely silent while someone else is speaking, even if they only have a quick comment, and he said that they all obey the rules. He also told us that how they are seated in parliament is different than most; they sit according to where they come from not according to party. So rather than sitting next to people with similar views, they are all mixed in with people with views from all over the spectrum.

Next we went into the smaller assembly room, which is no longer used, and we got to sit in the chairs. After that, we took our tour to the roof of the Stortinget! We had great weather that day and therefore got a great view of Karl Johan’s Gate, the Palace, and National Theatre. While up on top of the Stortinget, our professor also explained some of the history behind the placement of the buildings along Karl Johan’s Gate. The Palace was placed facing the Parliament to remind the king of the importance of the parliament. It also turns out that the placement of the National Theatre caused quite a dispute. It originally was supposed to be across from the university, facing it. But at the time, the university was strongly against it. Back then, the theatre was viewed as being very opposite from the university and education, so the university did not want it facing it right outside the front doors. So the theatre was placed parallel to the university instead.

Back inside, we checked out a few more pieces of art, including one painted by the famous Norwegian painter, Edvard Munch. The whole evening was a great experience filled with interesting information. I never knew an art history class could be so much fun!

 

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