Vardø and its witches – the Vardø Steilneset Memorial
As much as the Middle Ages are celebrated today, their methods of torture and execution were brutal. This did not stop at the small arctic town of Vardø on the Varanger peninsula. From 1060 to 1692, more than 100 suspects were brutally tortured and 77 women and 14 men were executed as witches. Finnmark has countered this period of horror with a unique memorial – the impressive Vardø Steilneset Memorial
The witch hunt in Vardø was one of the worst in all of Finnmark. This delusion peaked in 1662 and 1663.
The Steilneset Memorial – Vardø witch memorial
Vardø took on this dramatic theme in the form of the Steilneset Memorial in an impressively artistic and architectural manner and committed the Swiss architect Peter Zumthor to it.
The 120 meter long main building of the Steilneset Memorial consists of a modern interpretation of the traditional fish drying racks and is covered with a canvas.
The memory hall, which is only 1.50 meters wide, hangs like a kayak on the side. A wooden walkway with side walls leads to the simple entrance door of the Vardø Steilneset Memorial. It is getting dark inside. For each of the 91 victims there is one of the unevenly arranged small windows with a small light bulb behind them. For each of the 91 victims there is a plaque with texts by the historian Liv Helene Willumsen. Their texts are based on the ridiculous court minutes.
Near the memorial room at Steilneset Memorial Vardø there is a small pavilion with a symbolic and stylized funeral pyre. A flame burns out of a chair and rises to the smoked glass plates hanging above it. Seven mirrors are attached to the circular five-meter-high masts around the fireplace, each of which represents one of the witch judges.
As a visitor to the Steilneset Memorial Vardø, you move between the truncated cone of the fireplace and the mirrors, in which you can also view the never-ending fire indirectly. The surrounding square pavilion of the Steilneset Memorial consists of a steel structure and smoked glass walls. The surroundings of Vardø are reflected on its outer walls.
The Vardø Memorial Pavilion was the last public work by the French-American artist Louise Bourgeois, who died 11 months before the official inauguration.
On June 23, 2011, the Steilneset Memorial was inaugurated as a memorial to the victims of the witch burning by Queen Sonja of Norway.
The memorial in polar Vardø is likely to be one of the largest single projects along the tourist roads. A wonderful path leads from the Steilneset Memorial to the surrounding area of Vardø.