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Historical information about KABELVÅG and the old parts of Vågan, Lofoten
- where Lofoten Fritids Rorbuer is situated.
Enjoy the view, and ponder bygone times.


Kabelvåg, Lofoten (1 km from Lofoten Fritids Rorbuer) is the oldest fishing village in Lofoten, and it was here that the commercial aspect of the fisheries was first developed about 1,000 years ago. Fishermen from all over northern Norway came to the coves and inlets (Vågan) around Kabelvåg to harvest their share of the cod that migrate here every year. And Vågan developed into the centre of the medieval region of Hålogaland. In the grounds of the Lofoten Museum in Storvågan, 1 km west of Kabelvåg (and a 10 minute walk from the cabins), you will find the remains of this old centre, formerly known as Vågar.


View from Lofoten Fritids Rorbuer towards Vågar.

Stockfish exports to the Mediterranean formed the basis for Vågan’s growth and development. Stockfish became a trading commodity around the year 1000 A.D. To begin with, exports were most likely carried out directly from Vågan and North Norway to other countries. But gradually, the stockfish was bought up by merchants who came from the south to buy fish and sell corn and other essential goods. The stockfish was carried to Trondheinm and Bergen, and finally only to Bergen, for export. In this way, the Vågastevnet fair came into being – originally as a market fair.

But the power of the crown also became intent on exploiting such a large gathering of people, and gradually a political assembly was established here. The assembly was established at Brurberget (approx. 200-300m from the cabins), near Storvågan (view from the cabins) and the most famous assembly there was held in 1282, when the so-called Vågabok, which was a special code of laws for Vågan, was revoked. From now on, only the king’s own laws were to apply. Apparently, Vågan has also had its own currency, the so-called Vågasølv.

In 1321, Archbishop Eiliv visited Vågan inaugurating an annual assembly of the clergy, where it was decided that all churches in northern Norway together with the Archbishop’s See in Nidaros should send representatives to the annual summer assembly in Vågan. Thus the complete Vågastevne Assembly was formed:

1) Market fair
2) Political Assembly
3) Clerical Assembly

After the Black Death, Vågan declined. When bailiff of Lofoten and Vesterålen Erik Hansen Schønnebøl was here in 1591, he wrote that Vågan, that had once been a market town, was now nothing more than an impoverished fishing village inhabited only by “10-12 wretches.”

Later, a new centre arose in Kabelvåg, and towards the end of the 19th century, Kabelvåg once again had townlike settlement and was without doubt the “capital” of the Lofoten Islands with its police station, sheriff’s office, dean and, above all, its trading centre. Another symbol of Kabelvåg’s important position in Lofoten was its newspapers. No less than four newspapers were published here at different points in time and in 1895, three of them were issued at the same time.

Kabelvåg was also one of the more prominent market towns along the coast. The market had, as we have seen, traditions dating way back in time. When the first market was staged in 1882, it was a revival of the old mediaeval Vågastevnet. The sale of stockfish was the predominant element at the Vågastevnet, but the more recent Kabelvåg Market was more characterized by amusement and recreation. People came here to buy and sell, to entertain and to be entertained. The last of these Kabelvåg Markets was staged in 1939.

With the motorization of the coastal vessels, the importance of Kabelvåg once again declined. The harbour was not good enough, and Svolvær took over most of the maritime traffic, and consequently most of the new growth and development. In spite of the town being ravaged by several major fires, the time-honoured wooden architecture was still the trade mark of Kabelvåg. However, with the two most recent fires, on 8 December 1991 and 13 June 1992, practically all of the oldest buildings in the main street have now been lost.



Today, Kabelvåg is primarily a centre of education and culture and is the venue for a college of further education, a school of art, a folk high school and Nordland Video Workshop providing education in the field of filmmaking.

At Storvågan, 1 km west of Kabelvåg and Lofoten Fritids Rorbuer - and still within the borders of the old mediaeval centre, there is now a culture and tourism centre. The Lofoten Regional Museum is located there, and within its grounds annual archaeological excavations are carried out under the direction of the Vågastevne Foundation. The excavations are a pilot project involving the participation of school children. Also on the site, we find the Espolin Gallery where the larger part of the works of artist Kaare Espolin Johnson are on display. The collection was a gift given by the artist to Vågan Council. The Lofoten Aquarium and the tourist centre Nyvågar contribute towards making Storvågan a unique resort.

(Excerpt from the royal brochure of 1992, written by Håkon Brun. (© 1992))

Vågan History Society

Old and more recent photographs from the local area.
Some of the photos have been used to decorate the rorbu cabins.
While you enjoy the view and admire the wild and wonderful landscape, you may cast a glance at the photos and imagine the hard life and work of the fishermen of old.
Click here to see a slide show with more old photographs.


The seaward approach to Lofoten Fritids Rorbuer - en svunnen tid!

Everything you need to know about Lofoten:

   

L O F O T E N    F R I T I D S    R O R B U E R   S. U. S.  P.O Box 109, N-8309 Kabelvåg Tlf: 90 68 92 06. Fax: 76074898 E-mail: ola@svinoya.no

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