Sverre Sigurdsson

Sverre Sigurdsson (1150-1202), King Sverre, fought for power and dominance during the time of civil war in Norway. This period consisted of ongoing consolidations and confrontations, never allowing the combatants to remain long in one and the same place. Hence the label "Trondhjemmer" [person from Trondheim] does not fit this King particularly well. But Sverre was such a strong figure in our town that he has a citadel in his name, and a city district, street and statue named after him.
Sverre's personal background is uncertain. His legitimacy rested on his claim that he was the son of Sigurd Munn, a previous king of Norway. This claim has been contested by many, even today. With this as his legitimacy though, the young priest arrived in Norway to fight for the throne of Norway.
Sverre and his adherents, Birkebeinerne [named so because they used birch bark around their legs to keep warm] made several attempts to take Nidaros [former name of Trondheim] before they were finally able to gain a firm position towards the end of the 1170s. The battle of Kalvskinnet in approximately 1179, where his main opponent Erling jarl (Earl - nicknamed Skakke) fell, was decisive. After this, King Magnus Erlingsson became Sverre's most important foe. Magnus fell in the battle of Fimreite in 1184, and Sverre then may have had control over more of Norway than anybody before him.
As a stage in fortifying the position in Nidaros the Zion citadel was built in 1182-83. This was the first regular stone citadel in Norway. With its elevated placement on a rocky outcrop it was not easy to occupy, but the Birkebeiners still had to surrender it once or twice. Today the Zion citadel is one of the main attractions in Sverresborg Trøndelag Folk Museum. A more modern memorial in Trondheim of King Sverre is the statue by Sivert Donalis in Ilaparken.
http://www.aune-forlag.no/
Recommended reading: Fredrik Paasche: Kong Sverre [King Sverre]. Aschehoug, 1948/1966.

Author: Einar Rædergård