The Skivebakken area – a brief history

Bergen has many scenic lookout points. Some of these have even been celebrated in song – for example, the vistas from Mt. Ulriken and Mt. Fløien. The view from the top of Skivebakken hasn’t been sung about but is nonetheless a local classic, because it has been drawn, painted, and photographed so many times and has often been pictured on postcards.

The name of the lane dates from 1857. The lower part was the first to be called Skiven; the rest was at first called Endregårdsveien and later Skiveveien, until the whole street finally got its present name, Skivebakken (bakken means “the hill”). This is a name that reflects a good deal of history.

Skiven means “the disk” and has therefore also meant “the target” in Norwegian for a very long time (picture an archery target, a dart board, or the bull’s-eye on a modern shooting-range target, and you will see why).

The area east of Kong Oscarsgate was called “Skiven” as early as in the 17th century, but in fact shooting practice had taken place there more than 100 years before. In 1497, when the area was part of the Nonneseter monastery, the Guild of German (Hanseatic) Craftsmen in Bergen got permission to use as much of the land as they needed for shooting birds and “parrots.” The parrot was a wooden target in the form of a bird that was fastened atop a high pole. We still have the expression “to shoot the parrot,” which means “to take the prize” (by delivering the best performance; hitting the target). Targets resembling modern ones were also used in the area as far back as 1599, when King Christian IV participated in a shooting competition during a visit to Bergen.

So the names Skiven and Skivebakken embody much local history, culture, and language.