Parliament lion salvaged

Historic coat of arms, saved from garbage in 1975, has now been fully restored

Parliament lion

Per Kristian Engebretsen, vaktmesteren som fant rammen, foran Riksvåpenet i Prinsensgate 26 på Stortinget. Foto: Stortinget

Pieter Wijnen
Norway Today

The frame of what turned out to be the parliamentary hall’s original Coat of Arms (from 1866) was salvaged from a trash container in 1975. The Parliament Lion is now reconstructed, restored, and placed in the lecturing rooms of the Norwegian parliament (Stortinget).

It was discovered by chance that the frame belongs to the coat of arms of the Norwegian parliament. Forty years after caretaker Per Kristian Engebretsen fished the frame out of a container along with two old mirrors, he invited gilder Sarah B. Eggen and wood carver Boni Wiik to assess the objects. They recognized the frame while studying a photograph of the parliamentary hall from 1870. There it was: the Parliament Lion, hanging in all its glory behind the presidential podium!

“I’m touched to see the Parliament Lion hang here today. It was a coincidence that I had picked the frame up over 40 years ago, and the result is amazing,” Engebretsen says.

There are very few preserved objects from the Parliament’s early years, so an attempt to recreate the old coat of arms began right away. While plowing through old sources, it was discovered that the coat of arms was designed sculptor Christopher Borch, the artist behind the stone lions in front of parliament, known as the Lion Hill (Løvebakken).

“With the restored coat of arms, an important piece has fallen into place here at the Parliament,” Tone Wilhelmsen Trøen, President of the Parliament, says.

“Its placement in the classrooms connects the historical and new parts of the Parliament, and the lion is a golden opportunity to tell children and young people about the lion as a symbol of people’s rule, and how the democracy we currently have is linked to our history,” she continues.

“The Norwegian Parliament has a special responsibility to preserve and convey our history,” Head of Archives Tanja Wahl explains. Wahl has led the restoration.

Many people have been involved in the reconstruction and restoration work. Archivists of the parliament have put together and interpreted old images to find out what it looked like, and professionals with both historical and art competencies have contributed. Finally, craftsmen have been busy for months to recreate the coat of arms, using traditional techniques.

More pictures from the work on the Parliament Lion are available at www.flickr.com/photos/stortinget/sets/72157709245532718.

This article was originally published on Norway Today.

This article originally appeared in the July 12, 2019, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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