The gardens belonging to St. Jørgen’s Hospital

Originally, the hospital owned two gardens and fairly large meadows around the buildings and on the other side of Kong Oscars gate, an area formerly called Hospitalsengen – the hospital pasture. The garden on the north side of the hospital was sold to Bergen municipality, while the garden behind the operating building still belongs to the hospital.

In the garden behind the farm building, a herb garden was established in 1993. The herb garden started in 1993 as a collaboration between organisation Det Nyttige Selskab in Bergen and the municipal parks department. It has been maintained in recent years by a team of keen volunteers.

The assortment of plants grown in the herb garden is mainly based on Doctor Daniel Cornelius Danielssen’s description of historical treatment methods in the book ‘Om Spedalskhed’ (On Leprosy) from 1847. Several of these herbs may also have been used in Norway in olden times. Some of the herbs grow in the wild, while others have been imported and cultivated at monasteries and convents, and later in apothecary gardens.

It is not known whether the hospital originally had a herb garden. The hospital was probably established on the grounds of Nonneseter Abbey, and the proximity of the Abbey to the hospital may suggest that the residents at St. Jørgen’s received plants for food and medicinal use. It is not certain which plants were used, and they were probably not intended to provide lasting or curative treatment, but were primarily an attempt to relieve symptoms and alleviate common ailments.

The herb garden is open for visitors during the museum’s opening hours.

St. Jørgen's Hospital with two gardens. Cropped photo: Knud Knudsen. University of Bergen Library.
This is one of the very few photographs showing the large garden with walking paths on the north of the hospital buildings. In the garden behind the farm buildings, you can see a gazebo and laundry laid out to bleach in the sun.
Photo: Knud Knudsen. The University of Bergen Library.
St. Jørgen's Hospital around 1880. Cropped photo: Knud Knudsen. University of Bergen Library.
Photographs from the end of the 19th century show a curved garden path in the garden behind the hospital. In this photograph, laundry is laying in the garden to be bleached in the sun, and a fence can be seen between the garden and hospital buildings.
Photo: Knud Knudsen. Detail. The University of Bergen Library.
Drawing by architects Lindstrøm and Tvedt 1921. Bergen's Architects' Association, ArkiVest.
Both gardens are included on a site plan made by the architects Lindstrøm and Tvedt in 1921. One garden is referred to as a ‘berry garden’ and the other as a ‘garden for patients. Strangely, the washhouse is not shown in the back garden.
The archive of the National Association of Norwegian Architects, ArkiVest.
The herb garden. Photo: Atle Vedaa Toskedal.
The herb garden today.
Photo: Atle Vedaa Toskedal.
The herb garden. Photo: Bergen City Museum.
Photo: Bergen City Museum.
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