Augustinius and the signatures at St. Jørgen’s

A number of places at St. Jørgen’s Hospital bear the signatures of those who carried out painting work in the late 19th century and early 20th century. They are fascinating traces of the work carried out on the buildings.

On the timber walls in the hallway that leads into the garden, colours and signatures form a small colour archive from the hospital’s history. The shades of green were most likely used on the facade facing the courtyard and the ochre colours on the rear, as they are to this day. The white colour is most likely from the painting of the church, which is white on the side facing the street. The oldest signature (without colour) is from 1888, and the most recent are from the 1930s. Are they random blotches of colour, or consciously deposited samples left to document what colours were used and when? Did one person start doing this and the rest just followed? This remains unknown, as do the identities of O.P., R.I., E.V., Ø.S. and the others.

The beams surrounding the bell at the top of the church’s steeple bear a number of signatures, including names, initials and years. The man who signed A. Søvig on one of the beams in 1867 turned out to be named Augustinus. When Augustinus Hjort Søvig painted his signature, he was 19 years old and had presumably painted the church and/or steeple. In the census from 1870, he is the only Søvig living in Bergen with a first name starting with A. He was a journeyman painter and later became a master painter. He was the son of the shoemaker Søren Søvig, and lived not far away, in Marken 14 (ward 18, no. 80), with his parents and a brother. Perhaps he was an apprentice of his older brother Theodor Søvig, who was a master painter living in Grønnevollen in Marken.

Augustinus married Madsine Andrine in 1874 and had several children. The family alternated between living on their own and with Augustinus’ parents in Marken. Perhaps it was difficult making a living as a painter in Bergen, as he and his family finally left the city and emigrated to America in the summer of 1887. Nonetheless, there remains a small trace of him in his hometown, on a beam at top of the steeple of St. Jørgen’s Church.

Signatures farm building. Photo: Ingfrid Bækken.
In the barn aisle leading to the back garden is a row of colour fields with signatures, the oldest dating from 1888.
Photo: Ingfrid Bækken.
Signatures farm building. Photo: Bergen City Museum.
Details from the timber wall with signatures and colours.
Photo: Bergen City Museum.
Signature from A. Søvig in the bell tower. Photo: Bergen City Museum.
Augustinus Søvig signed ‘A. Søvig’ on one of the beams in the church in 1867.
Photo: Bergen City Museum.
Census 1870,
The 1870 census shows that Augustinus lived with his parents and a brother at Marken 14.
Screenshot from the Digital Archive,
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