Sagasøylen (The Saga Column) is an interesting piece of history that you will find along road Fv. 55, Sognefjellsvegen. The column is HUGE. Really huge. But to understand how it ended up at the parking by Elveseter hotel in Leirdalen – a side vally of Bøverdalen – you need to read the whole story;
Back in 1836, the writer Henrik Wergeland suggested planning for a monument to celebrate Norway’s independence from Sweden in 1814. Nothing happened, so 35 year later, the prime minister and the president of the parliament picked up Wergeland’s idea and started collecting money in 1881. The interest was unfortunately not quite enough this time either… Nor was it in 1905 when a new initiative was born to have something ready for the 100-year anniversary in 1914… 🧐
However, in 1925, the willingness and money were finally in place. Norway should get it’s monument, and a competition were established.
It was won by Gustav Vigeland’s (the creator of Frognerparken) former student, prof. Wilhelm Rasmussen. He wanted to make a huge ‘heroic’ column and put it in front of the parliament in Oslo at Eidsvoll’s plass. He made a full scale model in cardboard which were done in 1926. The column were originally named “From Hafrsfjord to Eidsvoll”, and called “Eidsvollsøylen” (the Eidsvoll column).
Stopped by WW2
When the 2nd World War started, the column was only half finished. And when the war was over, it was politically unacceptable to continue or even think about putting it on display. It turned out that Rasmussen had been a member of the nazi-party NS (Nasjonal Samling) since 1933. He spent several years in prison, and the column were not finished.
Enterprising hotel owner
Years later, the enterprising hotel owner Åmund Elvesæter from Bøverdalen enters the story. He was a collector and more than average interested in history. When he heard the story about the column, he got in contact with Rasmussen, and even if Elvesæter was a resistance fighter, they grew a friendship. Elvesæter tried for a long time to get the column erected in several places; in Oslo, at Bygdøy, in Eidsvoll and at Lillehammer, but with no luck. His final solution was to put it on his own property next to his hotel in Leirdalen. But first he had to convince the parliament, which owned it, to give it to him. The artist himself, Rasmussen, died in 1965.
Eventually Elvesæter got access to the finished parts of the column, and since the whole column was first made in plaster by Rasmussen, he had the remaining parts made out of concrete – moulded from the plaster forms made by Rasmussen.
In 1992, the 400 ton heavy column were moved to Elveseter where we now can admire the 34 meters high artwork next to Elveseter Hotel. 😳
Just to understand the size of this thing; it is twice the hight of Monolitten in Frognerparken… 😀
The statue is a stone column in 12 parts, and each of them represent pieces of Norway’s history; spanning from when Norway was gathered to one kingdom, till we got our constitution at Eidsvoll in 1814.
The 12 parts represents:
1: The battle at Hafrsfjord.
2: Dale-Gudbrand’s meeting with Olav den Hellige (Olav the Holy).
3: The battle at Stiklestad.
4: The construction of Nidaros Cathedral.
5: Norwegian saints (St.Olav, St.Svithun, St.Hallvard and St.Sunniva).
6 and 7: Sigurd Jorsalfar’s crusade to Jerusalem.
8: The battle at Kringen.
9: Norwegian mining history.
10: The battle at Dynekilen.
11: The bishops seals in the medieval.
12: The men at Eidsvoll 1814.
On top you’ll see Harald Hairfair (Hårfagre) who gathered Norway to one kingdom. Originally there was a lion on the top, but this was changed.
The Saga column is a must-do stop if you are riding the Scenic Route Sognefjellet.