The Bergen Map

The Grammar School

The Grammar School has had different locations over time – but always in connection with the Cathedral of Bergen. It began as a clerical school, but is today a modern gymnasium. The old school house for the Grammar School is today a museum of education.

In the Middle Ages there was a convent at Holmen which consisted of two churches of Christ, two churches of the Apostles and a bishop’s residence. In this centre of religion and learning, which also was the centre of political power, the first school in Bergen was created; the Cathedral School.

The Cathedral School was originally a school for ecclesiastical training, preparing the boys for further theological education at the universities of Europe. Mastering the classical languages was essential for these studies, and the focus on the Latin and Greek languages eventually gave the school its other name – the Grammar School.

The students at the Grammar School were taught subjects relevant to priesthood. The curriculum was probably established in the 12th century. They were expected to be able to read the Bible in the classical languages Latin and Greek, they learned to sing, and in order to be able to time the holidays and yearly events they were taught astrology. Other subjects were arithmetics, rhetorics and logics. Gjeble Pederssøn participated in the teaching and held classes every morning.

The school has had many well-known students and teachers. One of the school’s students was Gjeble Pederssøn, who later became Bergen’s first protestant bishop. His work was vital for the school’s existence.

Gjeble Pederssøn came to Bergen as a young boy and in due time he attended school at Holmen. He was clever and managed to obtain a scholarship to study theology in Holland. Gjeble lived in unstable political and religious times. During the time of the Reformation, he saw priests and bishops executed, churches torn down and the clergy lose its power. The medieval church centre at Holmen as well as the Nicolay Church were torn down and Munkeliv Monastery at Nordnes was burned.

After the Reformation in 1537, Gjeble Pederssøn was appointed Bishop of Bergen. He relocated the Grammar School to the new cathedral’s grounds and asked the school’s new headmaster and to teach the boys Luther’s Catechism.

Ludvig Holberg, the well-known professor, author and playwright from Bergen and Copenhagen, attended the Grammar School as a boy in the years 1697 – 1702

Ludvig Holberg, the well-known professor, author and playwright from Bergen and Copenhagen, attended the Grammar School as a boy in the years 1697 – 1702. When he was a schoolboy the most commonly used educational tools were different forms of spanking. The spanking devise “ferlen” was a flat wooden club with lead or iron inserted. This instrument was frequently used by the teachers to punish the boys for disobedience, forgetfulness or poor school performances. Usually they were stricken four times on the flat of the hand.

In Ludvig Holberg’s time, the boys in the four youngest classes at school sat together in a large room. The oldest class had its own classroom in which the headmaster himself taught the students. The headmaster lived with his family and servants in an apartment in the school building.

Holberg’s school building burnt in 1702, and Holberg was sent to Copenhagen for theological studies.

A new school was erected on the ruins of the former, and this building was in use until 1840 when a new school was raised south of the Cathedral. The old Grammar School had become too small for the increasing number of boys who wanted this education. The Cathedral School is still very much alive today, as a gymnasium or high school.

Since 1840, the old house has been used for different purposes, and today it is a modern museum of education.

The Grammar School.


Til alle som har en fot i fortidens Bergen - hva med Elisabeth Welhavens fornøyelige historier fra Bergen rundt 1800? Boken kan bestilles på Histos forlag!

Today Bergen Museum of Education is found in the Grammar School. Pictures by Histos
The old Grammar School, photographed by Knud Knudsen around 1860. The picture is from the Knudsen-collection in UBB.