Friday, June 17, 2011

Kungalv: Bohus Fortress, Castle, Prison. Pietism, Jante Law.

Bohus Fastning
Bohus Fortress

Pietism and Jante Law

1.  The Fortress

Bohus was constructed starting in 1308 by the Norwegian King Haakon V Magnuson on the then-border between Denmark-Norway and Sweden. Attacked by the Swedes many times, it was never overcome. There was severe damage after the Norwegians used a volunteer suicide-exploder to slip beneath an arsenal as the Swedes were swarming into it, and to blow it and himself up (successful operation). Rebuild. Fighting still continued until 1652 when Denmark-Norway had to cede the territory to Sweden, by the Treaty of Roskilde. See

By the late 18th Century, local administrators decided to demolish the castle and reuse the stone, and proceeded to do so.  Then the money ran out, leaving a still-substantial structure for museum today.

The prison was then used as a prison, with a noted inmate Thomas Leopold 1693-1771, 18th Century Radical Pietist (live a life of Christian moderation but no need for priests), who refused to recant his heretical views that offended institutional Lutheranism, and spent 42 years in jail for it, some 32 here at Bohus. This from Wikipedia.

2.  Religious beliefs and culture.  Shapings of Pietism. The Beliefs of a Heretic; modern application, culture and immigration, and Jante Law

Thomas Leopold in Bohus, a prison with damp casemates, caves, tunnels beneath. He sought to reform the reformation, with ideas of individualism.  Why was he so fiercely beaten down.

From Radical Pietism in the years following the Reformation, there is reporting of contemporary Atheistic Pietism in today's more secular Sweden. Principles of individualism continue in different ways in contemporary Scandinavian culture, but countered by a philosophy that would not be immediately obvious at all to a visitor:  Jante Law. 

Jante's Law is a topic in itself, but overview is at  FN 1.

It combines a dark side (for those of us raised to value rampant individualism), with a practical survival element.  This combination will be familiar if you ever saw episodes from the old TV series that stemmed from the 1948 film, I Remember Mama, about a Norwegian immigrant family in San Francisco at the turn of the 20th century; or have appreciated Ingmar Bergman's films, these are familiar tenets.

View an entire episode of I Remember Mama at
Read the book: Kathryn Forbes, Mama's Bank Account.

3.  More practicalities.

Where to stay when you arrive in a new place late in the day?

Strategy. Think of the next day. 1) Spot the attraction, 2) aim for it, and then 3) look for a hotel. That makes the next day's exploring much easier. Better yet:  find a name that you like.

Fars Hatt Hotel. 

Bohus is visible from a distance, there are many signs for the access paths to it.  The River Gota divides into two branches at Kungalv - and at a fine location is the Fars Hatt Hotel. and conference center. The Fars Hatt at

Grandfather's Hat Hotel, obviously named for the local name for the big north tower at the fortress. We get no kickbacks, but do recommend this one highly. Courtesy, great food, convenience.

We had a view of the fortress from our room at The Fars Hatt . We did not need handicap access for wheelchairs, but applaud the arrangement that shows Swedish - and European - common sense.  

Put the ramp up where it is needed, and expect people to keep their own eyes open. Watch your own step.  No warning signs, no rails, no problem.  Look where you are going.  Kungalv is an easy drive from Lacko Castle, on the way to Goteborg nearby. 


FN 1  One Swedish blogger writes (Swedish translated on internet) in summary that atheistic pietism roots a moral framework in religion, but without also adopting the religious foundation of the institution; or the priests. He sees this as having a strong impact on Swedish nationality. The old pietism rules required moderation and humility, no questioning god, and endurance. No complaining. Quoting from the online translation of the Swedish site --

"All people have equal worth before God, and no priest was needed to communicate with the divine, but every man was his own priest (equality and Jante law). In conclusion, humanity would participate in the sufferings of Christ and in unity with the Bible consider their body as 'temple of God' who were not abused in any way."

The author continues to  note, "Many of these ideas alive in Sweden today, despite that a large majority of Swedes today reject Christianity or other religious affiliation ('we have rejected God but retained the regulations'). What is Jante law? *

Find the Swedish at

Reformation Sweden. Scholarly discourse on pietism:  see  Thomas Leopold gave his life and freedom for his beliefs.  Keep him going.

* Jante Law:  Jantelagen.  See its role in Swedish society in a thesis by Crystal Lee Moller from 1998, the Law of Jante in Swedish Society, at

A surprising introduction is the observation by the author that envy of other's good fortune is prevalent, despite religious origins of envy as a sin. Envy also serves a social purpose:  if others will despise the individualist, the unique,  the excessively showy, then those elements will be kept in check. Solidarity is needed for survival, thus the sacrifice of the individual is functional. Harsh, unforgiving, but it works.

This is interesting.  Will take far more time to learn than this simplistic overview.

Norwegian-Danish author named Aksel Sandemose articulated this Jante Law -- egalitarianism, interdependence, respect - in a novel.  Jante is the name of a fictitious town in Denmark that lives by its own ten commandments, Jante Law.

This Norwegian site describes the basic principles, along the lines that atheistic pietism outlined in the arh site above. See 

Jante law is phrased in the negative:  you shall not think or believe that you are special, smarter or wiser or better or know more or fix things better than others. No laughing at others, and don't believe that others care about you or that you can teach others one little thing.

Criteria for liking people: like them for who they are, not what they do or accomplish or earn.  Tastes? Simple, no excessive show. Pride? In honesty and sincerity in relationships.

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