Destination Harstad official travel guide
Official touristinformation for: Harstad, Kvæfjord, Bjarkøy, Tjeldsund, Skånland.
Settlement in the Harstad district dates back to the Stone Age. Bjarkøy and Trondenes were important political centres from the end of the Viking era and in Medieval times. Even then, this area was the region’s population centre.
Tore Hund from Bjarkøy was the slayer of Olaf the Holy in 1030, and the Trondenes Church, which dates from the 15th century, is the world’s northernmost medieval stone church. The church stands on one of Hålogaland’s earliest and most important church sites.
The development of Harstad into a city can be attributed to its location and the transport patterns over the years. The sea was the old transport artery, and the steam ships called at Sandtorg and Trondenes. In 1844, Trondenes was replaced by Harstadhamn, which in turn was replaced in 1848 by Harstadsjøen, representing the first step towards Harstad as a city.
The Viking Ageis an era in North European history stretching from the late 8th century to the middle of the 11th century.
Bjarkøy outside Harstad is known from the Viking period as one of the most powerful chiefdoms in the north. Tore Hund was the chieftain here around the year 1000, and established the enormous wealth of the Bjarkøyætta (clan) through trade with Sami and descendents from Karelen. Many traces and cultural memorials from the Viking period remain on Bjarkøy to this day.
The term Middle Ages normally refers to the period from around 1000 to 1536 and indicates the period when Christianity was introduced in Norway and right up to the Reformation. During this period, power was shared between the Crown, nobility and the church. However, during the Reformation this three-way relationship changed as the church lost much of its political power.
Trondenes Church was completed around 1250 and is the world’s northernmost medieval church. Trondenes must have been an incredibly important place in medieval times. The site was located right in the shipping lane and by building such a large and visible church at Trondenes one could demonstrate that Christianity was strong here.
When the Germans invaded Norway in 1940, they were not impressed with the Norwegian coastal artillery even though in some places they were met with strong resistance and suffered big losses. However, there were plans to expand and regroup the coastal batteries. These plans got into German hands and were considered so good that they were implemented with immediate effect. The expansion of the coastal artillery was regarded as the most important contribution to defence, and the first hesitant steps in the direction of expansion were taken as early as July 1940.
At Trondenes, a battery of four 40.6 cm guns was built, of which just one has been restored and is today open to visitors. The guns were actually ship guns, but were demounted and transported to Trondenes, where there was frantic building activity at the fortress right up until the end of the war. Soviet Prisoners of War were used for this work, including excavation of the bunkers, brick laying and installation. They lived in a separate POW camp and were used as slave labour. Around 800 Soviet POWs died here.
After the war, they guns were handled over to Norwegian authorities.