Karen Bergesdatter – 57 years in St. Jørgen’s Hospital

On Thursday 24 April 1721, Karen Bergesdatter from Hamre parish was admitted to St. Jørgen’s Hospital in Bergen at the age of 40. Little did she know that she would become one of the most long-standing residents of the hospital in the 18th century. On 5 March 1778, aged 97 and having lived 57 years in the hospital, Karen died and was buried in St. Jørgen’s cemetery.

Karen is mentioned in Christopher Frimann’s book about institutions in Norway published in 1777. He tells us when she was admitted and that she came from Hamre, a large parish that covered what is today Sandviken, Åsane, Osterøy and parts of the municipalities of Alver and Modalen.

Frimann calculated how much financial support Karen Bergesdatter had received during her long stay in the hospital. During her 55 years there, it amounted to just over 894 riksdaler, of which the weekly food allowance accounted for 837 and her clothing and shoe allowance just over 57 riksdaler. And the amount continued to grow during the three years that remained of her life.

The fact that Frimann took the trouble to calculate this at all, probably indicates that it was unusual for people to remain at the hospital for such a long time. In the 18th century, many of the sick died after a short time, and some only lived for a few months after their admission. It is likely that people only asked to be admitted to the hospital when they were unable to take care of themselves and became a burden on others. The average length of stay in the mid-18th century is believed to have been about four-and-a-half years. However, Karen was not the only resident to live at the hospital for a long time. A list of residents dated 1781 shows that 12 people with leprosy had lived there for more than ten years. One of them had been admitted in 1751 and had lived there for 30 years, while another had lived there for 40 years, since 1741.

We know nothing more about Karen Bergesdatter other than the few facts mentioned above about her stay. During her years of residence, a thousand other residents spent a short or long period there, and she would also have known a number of superintendents and clergymen. She saw the new main building being erected in the 1750s, which would probably have been a great improvement. She must have shared a room with many other patients and seen them all pass away, and every day she would have heard the bells of the hospital church.

From Christoffer Frimann's book.
From Christopher Frimann’s 1777 book about Norwegian foundations: In this way, Karen Bergsdatter of the parish of Hammer, who was admitted on the 24th of April 1721 and has lived these 55 years, has received weekly allowances alone totalling 837 Rdlr; linen and shoe money totalling 57 Rdlr. 4 Mk. 4 Sk, In total 894 Rdlr. 4 Mk. 4 Sk.


All Rights Reserved