The hospital fires in 1640 and 1702

St. Jørgen’s Hospital has twice burned down. Since it was located outside the city, it was only affected by the biggest city fires – first in 1640 and then in 1702. On both occasions, the hospital was rebuilt in the same location.

The city fire of 1640 occurred in the afternoon of Sunday 5 July, just as the sermon finished at three o’clock. Mikal Hofnagel described the fire as ‘the huge dreadful fire.’ The weather was fine and sunny when two boys in Jonas the goldsmith’s house who were engaged in pistol shooting somehow managed to start a fire that destroyed the entire urban area between Muren and St. Jørgen’s Hospital. The Church of the Cross, the Cathedral and the Latin School all burned down. It is said there were about 100 residents at St. Jørgen’s Hospital and 17 of them were killed in the fire.

The city fire of 19 May 1702 was one of the most devastating in Bergen’s history. Almost the entire city burned down. St. Jørgen’s Hospital was also destroyed in this fire, but none of the residents lost their lives. After the fire, some of the residents were rehoused with friends in the countryside, others with the city’s poor and ‘common people’ in the city. The residents may have been similarly rehoused after the city fire in 1640, but this is not known.

Already in June 1702, the hospital’s superintendent submitted a report to the hospital’s board about the situation. The idea of rebuilding the hospital buildings in brick was considered, but the decision was made to construct a timber building for the residents in the same place as the hospital had previously stood. The building was completed and ready to use that autumn but was replaced with the main building that stands there today in the 1750s. The new church was completed in 1707 and stands there to this day, with a few alterations.

Hand written text about the fire in 1640. Bergen City Archives.
At the bottom of the page is Edvard Edvardsen’s description of the fire on 1 July 1640, in which the hospital burned down to the ground. Hilbrandt Meyer’s transcript of Edvardsen’s description of Bergen.
Bergen City Archives.
Von Heinen's map after the city fire in 1702. Copy from Bergen City Archives.
Von Heinen’s zoning map made after the fire in 1702 shows the parts of the city destroyed by the fire. Only the buildings and city blocks shaded on the map remained standing. The destroyed hospital church is marked as no. 20 on the map. The map, probably dating from about 1914, is a copy of the original map in the National Archives of Norway.
Bergen City Archives.
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