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Monument to witchcraft trial victims

Her Majesty The Queen officially opened the Steilneset memorial on Midsummer’s Eve. The memorial is part of the National Tourist Routes project, and was one of the last, major installations designed by the groundbreaking French-American artist Louise Bourgeois.


The art installation in Vardø in the north of Norway was a collaborative effort between Louise Bourgeois and architect Peter Zumthor. Louise Bourgeois passed away in May 2010.

Steilneset is a memorial to the 91 people convicted of witchcraft and executed in Finnmark County the 1600s. The monument consists of two buildings – a glass construction, which houses the work by Louise Bourgeois, and a 125-metre long memorial hall with a window for each of the victims.

The National Tourist Routes in Norway

Steilneset is a part of the National Tourist Routes in Norway project. These comprise 18 selected scenic routes from Varanger in the north to Jæren in the south, which pass through spectacular Norwegian scenery and have designated stopping places along the way from which modern architecture and works of art can be appreciated.

And this is exactly what we can experience here at Steilneset, far to the north and in the easternmost part of Norway – spectacular art in magnificent and rugged natural surroundings,” stated Queen Sonja in her remarks.

The Queen, who has visited several of the other National Tourist Routes sites, expressed great admiration for the project:

The ability of a simple rest area, a footbridge over a rushing river or a stopping place along the road to generate a sense of awe is really quite impressive.”

To date, six stretches of road have been granted full status as National Tourist Routes: Sognefjellet, Gamle Strynefjellsvegen, Hardanger, Helgelandskysten North, Lofoten and Rondane and more than one hundred rest areas have been established. The Norwegian Public Roads Administration estimates that all 18 tourist routes will be fully completed by 2020.

The witchcraft trials

During the witch hunt of the seventeenth century, Vardø was the town in Norway with the highest number of convictions and executions for witchcraft. A total of 91 people were convicted and burnt at the stake in Finnmark between 1600 and 1692.

Steilneset is a symbol of the intolerance of the period, but can also serve to remind us of the prejudices, injustices and persecution that exist today,” stated Queen Sonja in her speech.

The art installation was a gift from Louise Bourgeois, arising from her long-standing commitment to fighting injustice.

Outdoor ceremony

Many people gathered for the official opening of the Steilneset memorial. After the ceremony the Queen was given a guided tour of the memorial hall and the glass building accompanied by the writer and historian Liv Helene Willumsen, who authored the texts for the exhibition in the hall. The architect Peter Zumthor and Louise Bourgeois’ assistant Jerry Gorovoy also took part in the tour.

The Royal Beam and snowball fights at the fortress

This afternoon Queen Sonja will attend a service in Vardø church to mark the opening of the memorial. Sturla Stålsett, General Secretary of the Church City Mission, will talk about contemporary violations of human rights.

The day’s programme will be concluded at Vardøhus Fortress where the Queen will sign the Royal Beam on which several Norwegian kings have carved their names. Anita Remme, President of Yukigassen Norway, will give a presentation on the Yugikassen snowball fight competition, which is held at the fortress. Vardø hosts the Nordic Yukigassen Championship every year. This year the competition was organised for the 15th time and 64 teams took part.

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