Vardø: Pomors, Radars and Witches in the Far North
You're now at Steilneset, and have reached the dark side of our history.
Stop here for a moment while I fill you in.
For those who believe in God – there is also a devil. The belief in evil forces was strong in the 1600s, and those who gave their bodies and souls to the dark side were called witches. A neighbor, a friend, a wife or a family member – anyone could be a witch.
Let's continue walking while I tell you more.
Take the path that curves slightly to the left, towards the building that is shaped like a glass cube.
In central Europe, hunting for witches began in the 1400s, reaching England and Scotland about a hundred years later. It was only in the 1600s that the majority of executions took place in Scandinavia – and Vardø was a central spot in these trials.
The Vardø witch trials were special, if we consider the amount of witches that were executed. In this period, the population of Finnmark county was only 3 000 people – 135 of them were accused of witchcraft, and 91 were executed.
We're now heading to the Steilneset Memorial, a monument commemorating the trial and execution of the 91 people for witchcraft. The memorial was designed by artist Louise Bourgeois and architect Peter Zumthor, and opened in 2011. It was Bourgeois' last major work before her death in 2010.
It is made up of two buildings. The first building is a square smoked glass room, 39 feet on each side, that contains the work of Bourgeois.
The second is a 410-foot-long wooden structure that houses a fabric cocoon. This contains Peter Zumthor's installation, a Memory Hall. Inside is a timber walkway, 328 feet long but just five feet wide. There are 91 randomly placed small windows along the corridor that represent those executed. Each window is accompanied by a text.
Through each window can be seen a single lightbulb.
Please continue to the monuments and enter the first building – the cube in black glass.