Vik i Sogn through the centuries

The wide and firtile village of Vik has been established in ancient times. The area must have stood out early as a good place to settle. Distinct parts of Norway stand out with many large burial mounds. These are areas that have been powerful and rich and must have been political centers in prehistorical times. Vik is such an area.

Burial mound
Vik must have been a center in Sogn through a great deal of the Bronze and Iron Ages (1800 BC - 1050 AD). This is due to the importance of agriculture in Vik. Other places might have gained their political weight from a central location by the traffic arteries on sea or land.

Trading, Viking raids
The farms in Vik lie on old marine terraces, and many of the burial mounds lie on the edges of these. Several of the mounds carried rich finds that show how the people of Vik traded and intercoursed both domestic and abroad. Especially the burial fields at Stadheim and Hove have given rich finds. The Hove mounds were built about 400-500 AD. At Hopperstad finds have been made that prove Viking raids from Vik. These finds are bronze bowls and bronze dishes, things that probably found their way to Norway with the Viking raids.

Great effort to build a burial mound
The great finds show that the prehistorical society was sufficiently organized to coordinate a large common effort. The materials, mainly sand and gravel, was carried or dragged onto the mound. A mound with a diameter af 20 m and height of 2.5 m contains about 400 m3 of masses. A burial place of this size probably has taken about 200-400 days work. 20 persons might have done this over 20 days, but if the job stretched over a longer time span, it is possible that a family did it. If the memorial is built in a short time, an entire village or a tribe is likely to have been mobilized. This shows to what extent the builder har controlled labour.

Hopperstad stave church
Two old churces
In the latter half of the 12th century a stave church was built at Hopperstad and a stone church at Hove. Both churches are renovated and are used by villagers and tourists. The Hove church was private owned and indicates Hove being the home of chieftains with great wealth.

In addition to these churches there was also a stave church at Tenål. The church was destroyed in a land slide, probably in the 16th century. This church might also have been built in the 12th century. In 1877 a new church was built.

The Middle Ages
Until the 18th century life passed on for centuries without major changes, in Vik as in other parts of Norway. The Black Death swept over the country and lay farms waste. People lived from what the earth, the mountain and the fjord gave them. Agriculture kept people alive, forestry has never had a central place in the Vik economy. Few people lived from the fjord.

Officer Adam Reutz
Parade ground
In 1726 a military parade ground was established in Vik. This represents an important happening in the history of Vik. With the parade ground soldiers and officers found their way to Vik. When Vik became the drill ground for Sogns Bataljon in 1874, Vik´s military days of glory began. The officers who came to Vik meant a lot for the development of the town. They were pioneers in agriculturing, and they were principal characters in politics. Other important happenings in the 18th century was the school building that was built already in 1741. The vicar Anders Daae built this house by his private means. This was one of the first school buildings in rural Norway. The house was teared down in the 1890´s.

The 19th century
December 2nd 1811 disaster struck Vik. Nese in Arnafjorden was devastated by a landslide, and 45 people lost their lives. The farms at Nese were gathered in one house cluster where the landslide came down from the mountain. The situation worsened by the bad crops in 1812. Surviving cost a lot of hard work, and many people were in need of help. But eventually a way out was offered. In 1839 the first people from Vik emigrated to America. Per Ivarson Undi with his wife and children became the first emigrants from the Sogn og Fjordane county. By the years, many should follow. If we count in the villages of Feios and Fresvik over 4000 went from the Vik district. In the year 2000 there are less than 3000 inhabitants in Vik. Tens of thousands Americans can trace their roots to Vik i Sogn.

The latter part if the 19th century saw villagers gathering in common organizations and clubs, and official organizations were established. A post office was established in 1844, Vik Sparebank in 1846 and an agricultural organization in 1858. Then followed a rifle club, a temperance society, a morality society, a choral society, a consumer union, a youth society and many others. People created new social meeting places. The extensive shifting of agricultural land resulted in better working and living conditions. In 1865 Vik Prison was built. Since then the only prison in Sogn og Fjordane county has been in Vik. The dairy was established in 1897. Many dairies has been lay down, but Vik Meieri still exists in 2005. The dairy is the only one in Norway that produses gammalost, old cheese, and every year a gammalost-festival is arranged.

The power plant 1913
In 1913 the first power plant in Vik was finished. When the plant was opened it was immoderately labeled "the greatest happening in the development of Vik". The Vik people saw optimistically upon the future with industry and economic growth. And in 1920 Vik saw it´s first industry when Vik Trevarefabrikk (wood articles) and Vik Hermetikkfabrikk (canned products) were established. The Trevarefabrikk employed between 10 and 20 persons, and the Hermetikkfabrikk employed 60 persons from May through September. Both companies are shut down today.

Rv13 across the Vikjafjellet mountain
In 1957 the road between Vik and Voss across the Vikjafjellet mountain was officially opened. An old demand was reality. Vik got it´s open door to the surrounding area without any ferry or boat. In 2005 the road is still closed parts of the winters. Vik kommune is working hard to make the road independent from bad weather. Two major power developments were made in the 1950´s and 1960´s. The projects produced many jobs, and boosted the population again. Many farmers made good money and invested in their farms. From the late 1960´s until 1990 the Vik agriculture was revolutionized. New land was cultivated and new farm buildings were built. When the last power project was finished, a great effort was made to establish new employment in Vik. The effort resulted in success, and Vik Verk opened in 1968. The company produced crash barriers, signposts, snow shields and other aluminium products. At the most, 220 persons were employed. Since then, the company has been split into several minor companies, and the total employment is a lot less today.

Border regulations
In 1964 Vangsnes subparish that had belonged to Balestrand was transfered to Vik, and Kvamsøy was transfered to Balestrand. In 1992 Feios and Fresvik were added to Vik from Leikanger. These villages and Arnafjorden did not get their road connections until in the 1970´s.

Vik was traditionally an agricultural society. But in the year 2000 15.5 % were employed in agriculture and 18 % in industry. The greatest sector is health and social care with 21.5 % of the labour force. The greatest employer is Vik kommune (municipality), where 350 employees carry out 200 man-labour years. The population was 2899 by January 1st 2004. In 1999 there were 1209 registered employees.

Arne Inge Sæbø. Translation by Torstein Hønsi.
2000-2020 © Torstein Hønsi