The Bergen Map

Betlehem School for the poor

The pupils at Betlehem School wore simple school uniforms, and the school was nicknamed after the clothes’ colour on the collar. It was called the Green School, and some of the parents preferred to pay day by day fines, rather than sending their children to school! Why would they do that?

Betlehem School for the poor started accepting pupils in 1742, only two years after the first school in Bergen for poor children, Christi Krybbe School, opened in 1740. Pietist King Christian VI of Denmark-Norway had through legislation and decrees radically changed everyday life for children. Education had become a necessity in order to understand, and live by, the Holy Book, something clearly everybody should do.

In everyday speech, Betlehem School was known as “The Green School”. The pupils wore clothes with green collars due to reasons that can be traced back before the Reformation. The pupils at the school belonging to the Cathedral parish wore grey collars. The colours that were used had an historical explanation – the monk orders that had resided in convents in these areas before the Reformation wore these colours on their cowls.

Many parents thought that the children could be put into better use than going to school.

In 1883, 50 pupils attended Betlehem School. The conditions at this school for poor children hardly differed much from other schools for poor at the time. Neither was it easy to motivate the pupils to be active and positive, nor was much interest found among the parents. Many parents thought that the children could be put into better use than going to school. Truency from school was punished with fines, but the parents preferred to pay the fines and still make a better living by holding on to the small incomes from the children’s work outside school.

There were few books and little else in terms of school material, and recess was not yet invented. It was only when the town appointed its first School Director in 1861 that recess was made part of the school day. Now the children got a two minute break twice a day.

Still, Betlehem was said to be a good school. Some well educated teachers worked at the school, and these were known to be good teachers. One of these teachers later wrote the first modern reading book for schoolchildren.

Betlehem School closed its doors for schoolchildren when Fredriksberg School opened in 1870. Later on all the children from the area begun attending Nordnes School. Today Hordaland Art Centre uses the house.

Betlehem School for the poor, or rather "the Green School", is light blue today.


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!

We can see some changes since the school was new. Photo: Bergen Museum of Education.
The crypt in the basement is used for installations. Photo by Histos.
Hordaland Art's Centre uses the old school building today.

Fattigskolen var den første offentlige skole. Offisielt ble skolen hetende allmueskole eller fundasskole, men på folkemunn gikk den under fattigskole. Skolen var forbeholdt barn av fattige familier og foreldreløse barn.

Read full article on Wikipedia