Vardøhus Fortress

Vardøhus is the northernmost fortress in the world. This small fortress built with local stone has been called the last border towards the east and is a powerful Norwegian symbol.

Map of Norway

National Fortification Heritage
Project Date
1734 (restauration 2012)

Issues and stakes

The Vardøhus Fortress is shaped like an 8-pointed star. It was originally built to mark the sovereignty of Denmark-Norway up north, and to secure the protection of the city of Vardø. What is left today is the last of three fortresses in the area, and is the legacy of traditions dating back to the early 12th century. The existing fortress is built of local stone and pure lime mortars and dates back to 1734-38.

Even though the fortress is built with natural stone, a lack of maintenance and regular wear and tear means renovation is required. With no maintenance, nature will claim back its rightful place. And even in this cold climate with no trees, the vegetation will try to inhabit the walls. Over time, this is bad news as the roots take up moisture which will freeze in winter and destroy the joints. The main problem, however, is earlier repairs that used cementitious materials for repointing. This has produced cracks and openings for water to penetrate inside the construction.

The decomposition of the lime mortars from the inside has slowly destabilised the walls and resulted in loose rocks and a risk of collapse. As with all Norwegian fortresses, management is regulated by a National Maintenance plan. This is the main tool to secure thorough maintenance, use, restoration and renovation.


Following the guidelines developed by the National Fortification Heritage, the walls were demolished and remounted. Pictures were taken before demolishing with each stone given a number. When rebuilding the damaged parts, the stones are reassembled like a puzzle. For construction and limewash only pure and natural materials have been used. This includes wet slaked lime and local sand.