Children have always been taught and trained. They have been taught in the homes, in a teacher’s home or in schools and at professions or trades. The history of the schools in Bergen started around 1150 when Bergen Grammar School was established. In the times that followed, school buildings became increasingly noticeable around town, and they still tell their stories about which position schools have held trough time.
Baard Olav Skogrand
The history of Bergen is long and varied, and the needs in education and training reflects upon this variety. In the central parts of Bergen you will never find yourself far from a building or address with some kind of school history related to it. Often this is likely to be one of the many private schools in 19th century Bergen, and a few decades into the 20th century. Even though some of the schools were quite large, the history of private education is dominated by many and small units. More often than not the school’s owner (and main teacher) run the school in his or her home, giving classes in the main room of the house. Very many of the houses in Bergen are likely to have housed a small school like this. Professionally organized schools in Bergen started some time around 1150 with the Grammar School at Holmen, near Bergenhus Fort and Castle. This was mainly a school that aimed to educate clericals, but the school probably was generally important for the town as well. At the time, Bergen was a trading town in growth as well as the administrative centre of Norway and was in need of trained writers in both capacities. After the Reformation the Grammar School was moved to St. Olav’s Church, which was Bergen’s new Cathedral. The school was initially situated north of the Cathedral. The building we find at this site today, is the one that was raised after the big fire in 1702. In the 1840ies the school was moved to the south side of the Cathedral, to the building which is today’s Grammar School. If we walk a bit north to Øvregaten, we find Christi Krybbe School. Established in 1740, it was the first parish school in Bergen, and marked the beginning of modern school history. This one, and other parish schools which followed soon after, were schools for the poor, meant for the most unfortunate children in town. This was 200 years after the Reformation had brought with it the idea that education was a general need. When salvation became a matter between the individual and God, it was no longer sufficient for the priest to know the Gospel. The individual person now needed to obtain a minimum of knowledge. In 1539 the Church demanded that the children were taught Luther’s little Catechism in their parishes. This kind of education did for the most part consist of learning by heart – the parish clerk read out loud, and the children repeated. Starting out in the early 18th century, the pietistic movement played an important role in advocating the need for skills in reading and writing. The pietistic movement held the Gospel as a guiding line for Christian living, which made it vital for the believer to personally be able to read the holy texts of the New Testament. During the first decades of the century a number of pietistic schools were established. With Christian VI (1730-46), the pietistic movement had stretched itself all the way to the Danish-Norwegian throne. King Christian VI passed decrees on confirmation and rural schools, and thus turned the school history toward an organized direction. In 1889 a law was passed on primary schools in Norway, giving free education for all children in the whole country. The establishment of a modern unitary school system was an important matter for the young nation Norway, and large resources was put into the development of the educational system. If we look at some of the schools that were built in Bergen around this time, we easily accept that they must have appeared like small palaces in a town that was still dominated by little wooden houses. Indeed, they still appear like small palaces. These schools were built at an astonishing speed in spite of Bergen’s general financial straits. Great prestige was put into these building projects. The schools were large and beautiful, and they were built on some of the best building sites in Bergen. The schools were to become important arenas for public health, something that was taken into consideration when the schools were still on the drawing table. Light angles and air volume per pupil was carefully calculated. Noteworthy for Bergen is that the school’s corridors were built more spacious than in schools in general at this time. Bergen is of course a town cursed with great amounts of rain, and most children didn’t have good clothes to protect them from the bad weather. They often needed to stay indoors in the corridors during recess. The continued school history in Bergen during the 20th century is a story about new schools in an expanding city. Up until the 1970ies, new schools were built large and monumental, with Fridalen School (1938) as the grandest. But from the 1970ies on, it has been common to build small units and pavilions.