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Construction of Fredriksten started in 1661 after Norway lost the Bohuslän district and Bohus Fortress to Sweden in 1658. Three subsequent attacks by the Swedes on Halden in 1658-1660 convinced Fredrik 3. - King of Denmark and Norway; a strong, modern fortress was needed. During the war in 1718, the Swedish king Karl XII ended his days in front of the walls of Fredriksten fortress.
All of the attacks on Halden after 1658 clearly demonstrated the need for a
strong fortress in Halden. By royal command a large-scale building project
was commenced in 1661 to enlarge the fortress.
Consequently, when the legendary Swedish King Karl XII with 2000 men made a surprise attack on Halden on a foggy July night in 1716, a solidly upgraded fortress was now towering over the town. Watchmen in town were literally caught with their pants down! In just their underwear, they manage to escape to the fortress. The battles raged in many places, and by morning the Swedes had taken the town, though scuffles in the houses and streets continued. Gradually, all the Norwegian defenders made their way to the fortress as women and children were taken to safety outside of town.
From the fortress bombs and canon balls rained on the town. The town square was fired upon from a barge in the harbour as Norwegians lay in the hillsides shooting at everything Swedish. This is when the residents of Halden decided to torch their own town, or as expressed in Norway's national anthem: "Rather we burn the land than let it fall". Two maid servants and a boy servant threw burning wreaths of pitch into several of the town's buildings, and soon the entire south side was ablaze. The Swedes escaped to the north side, setting houses on fire to cover their retreat.
Two years later Karl XII made another attempt. With 6000 men he besieged
Fredriksten. He captured the Gyldenløve fort and dug trenches ever closer to the main fortress from the north. On the evening of 11 December he crept up to the edge of his trench to see how the digging was progressing. Suddenly he collapsed, hit by a bullet to the head. The following day the Swedish forces withdrew from Norway. Since then there has been much discussion as to whether Karl XII was shot by his own people or hit by an "honest Norwegian bullet".
In 1814 Fredriksten was again surrounded by Swedish forces. The Swedes set up batteries of canons at a number of sites around the town, placing the fortress under heavy fire.
The fortress returned fire, resulting in heavy casualties on both sides. After more than 14 days, a ceasefire was signed and the fortress gates were opened to the Swedish troops.
Norway was no longer subject to Danish rule, but united with Sweden.
Dissolution of the Union
When Norway decided to end its union with Sweden in 1905 the atmoshpere was tense. Thousands of soldiers were mobilized and concentrated on both sides of the border. At Fredriksten and around the district, powerful modern canons were deployed. However, negotiations resulted in a peaceful solution. One of the points of agreement was that Fredriksten would no longer would be an operative fort, but maintained as an historical monument.
Fredriksten is Norway`s largest, most important and most venerable border fortress. Many also find it one of the most magnificent in Europe, majestically located above Halden. It offers a fantastic view of the town and the fjord, and far into what once was enemy territory.
Fredriksten fortress is a fantastic arena for wide variety of events, from intimate theatrical performances to large car shows, concerts and sports events. A number of large outdoor areas and smaller freestanding forts are available for use.
Managed and maintained by the national association for the preservation of fortresses.