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The Saga Column, Bøverdalen, Norway - Famous Columns and Towers
402    Dibyendu Banerjee    03/04/2023

Designed by the sculptor Wilhelm Rasmussen in the 1920s, the massive Saga Column, beautifully decorated with sculpture and reliefs depicting the history of Norway from the Battle of Hafrsfjord, which resulted in the unification of the country in 872, up to the National Congress in 1814, when the country got its constitution at Eidsvoll, was supposed to be installed outside the parliament building in Eidsvoll and named Eidsvollsøyla or the Eidsvoll Pillar. However, by the turn of historical events, it was installed in 1992, as the Saga Column, in the middle of nowhere, at the parking lot of the Elveseter hotel in Leirdalen, a side valley to Bøverdalen in Loom, along the Sognefjell Road.

saga column boverdalen

The colossal Saga Column, 131 feet (about 40 m) tall from its foundations to the top of the crown, stands 198 feet (60 m) over the ground level. Exhibiting national pride and heroism, it is topped by an equestrian statue of Harald Hårfagre, the first king of Norway, who unified the country as a kingdom after the Battle of Hafrsfjord. The column has a long history, which began as early as 1836, when the poet Henrik Wergeland took the initiative and issued a call to the Norwegian people to erect a memorial to Norway's independence.

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However, no action on the government level was taken about it until 1881, when the Prime Minister and President of the Storting, the Norwegian Parliament, took up the matter and started collecting funds to materialise the project of erecting the national monument. Unfortunately, the effort ended without yielding any fruitful result and in 1905, another attempt in time for the centenary in 1914 also fell through. It was not until 1925 that a competition was arranged for designing a monument, preferably with the pillar motif as a basis, which was won by Professor Wilhelm Rasmussen, a former student of the famous Norwegian sculptor Gustav Vigeland and a full-figured model, supposedly made of cardboard, was erected in Eidsvolls plass, a square and park in Oslo, in front of the Storting in 1926. Rasmussen continued to work on the column by carving the lower parts in syenite, a coarse grained grey rock resembling granite, which was a time consuming job and when the Great War began, the pillar was only half completed and the rest was completely modelled in plaster.

saga column boverdalen

Unfortunately, before the onset of World War II, Willhelm Rasmussen joined the Nazi party, supported the Nazis during the war and his style of the proposed sculpture also coincided with Nazi preferences and propaganda. He also created and installed a similar, but much smaller, explicitly Nazi monument in Stiklestad, which was subsequently torn down and buried immediately after the war.

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Naturally, the Norwegian Parliament decided that the half-done column created by Rasmussen, a Nazi sympathiser, should be discarded and never be completed and installed.

saga column boverdalen

However, Aasmund Elveseter, an honoured resistance fighter with a strong interest in all possible Norwegian history and a successful hotelier, tried in every possible way to have the statue erected in Oslo, on Bygdøy, Eidsvoll and Lillehammer, but failed.

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Finally, he gained access to the original carved parts, had the rest made in synthetic concrete and installed the 400 ton work of art in 1992, as the Saga Column, depicting several sagas of King Harald Hårfagre relating to the history of Norway, at the parking lot of his hotel in Leirdalen.

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Author Details
Dibyendu Banerjee
Ex student of Scottish Church College. Served a Nationalised Bank for nearly 35 years. Authored novels in Bengali. Translated into Bengali novels/short stories of Leo Tolstoy, Eric Maria Remarque, D.H.Lawrence, Harold Robbins, Guy de Maupassant, Somerset Maugham and others. Also compiled collections of short stories from Africa and Third World. Interested in literature, history, music, sports and international films.
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