Today, the city of Kongsberg celebrates its 400th anniversary, a significant milestone that not only honors the city's past but also the community that has grown through centuries of culture, industry, and education. 

Four hundred years ago, on May 2, 1624, Kongsberg was founded by Christian IV of Denmark and Norway. The background was the discovery of silver the year before, which formed the basis for establishing Kongsberg as an important center for mining and silver production. 

Since the discovery of silver, the Kongsberg community has grown and evolved over the centuries, achieving international recognition for its culture, industry, and education. Building on the rich expertise in the city, Kongsberg Vaapenfabrikk, now known as Kongsberg Gruppen, was established in response to the dissolution of the union with Denmark in 1814. Since then, the company has been a cornerstone of the city, and the birthday celebration is therefore of great significance both for the company and our employees.

Jubilee spirit 
In 2021, Kongsberg municipality and Kongsberg Gruppen entered into an agreement whereby the latter would provide a project manager resource for the 400th-anniversary celebration. The choice fell on Laura Helene Sletbakk, who has held various positions at Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace for 19 years. 

"I was asked to take on this job, and I didn't take long to say yes. Leading such a project is an opportunity you only get once in a lifetime," she told the local newspaper Laagendalsposten when it was announced that she would lead the project back in 2021. 

For the past two years, she has worked with the organizing committee to make the celebration of Kongsberg a memorable event for the residents. 

"Kongsberg Gruppen has played a significant role in the project by providing a dedicated project manager for three years. Furthermore, they have also contributed financially to several other projects," says Laura.

Bergseminaret – an industrial collaboration 
On January 1 of this year, it was announced that the venerable Bergseminaret in Kongsberg had new owners when Kongsberg Gruppen secured the keys. Today, during the city's birthday celebration, Eirik Lie, President of Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace, said that the re-opening of Bergseminaret is driven by the company’s wish to celebrate the quatercentenary of Kongsberg with the people who live here. 

"It's great that Kongsberg Gruppen continues to support and build on the heritage from the city of Kongsberg – we intend to continue this in the best possible way going forward. This is important for us as a company, and I believe the collaboration with students, the University of South-Eastern Norway (USN), and the city will continue for many decades to come. This is an exciting opportunity for us all,” he says.  

The protected building from 1786 housed one of the first institutions for higher education in Norway. Among the students was the founder of Kongsberg Vaapenfabrikk, Paul Steenstrup. 

"The acquisition of the historic building Bergseminaret not only marks the importance of preserving a significant part of Norway's educational history but also a strategic commitment to future innovation and collaboration with USN," says Jan Helge Strøm of Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace, and project manager responsible for the utilization of the building. 

"Over the years, we have established and developed many points of contact and specific project agreements. We want Bergseminaret to be a catalyst for this collaboration agreement and enable better utilization of the potential there.

Together, we will cultivate higher technical education and build even closer bridges between academia and industry," he says. 

Royal visit 

On Thursday, May 2, Kongsberg was dressed in red, white, and blue, and an atmosphere akin to the national day filled the air. 

"Many of us are in a jubilant mood now, feeling pride in our city and our history," says Laura. 

During the celebration, one of the most remarkable moments will be the visit of King Harald V and Queen Sonja. Laura says the invitation was sent as early as 2022. 

"It has been a long wait, so I was incredibly moved when they confirmed they would come to the birthday celebration," says Laura, adding that the royal visit means a lot to the city's residents. 

The birthday celebration began with a solemn concert in the church, where tickets were sold out in record time—only 20 minutes after they were released. For those who couldn't get tickets, it was still possible to watch the concert live online. 

After the concert, the Royal Couple took a guided tour in an autonomous bus, where they were presented with plans for Bergseminaret, among other things. The Royal visit concluded with entertainment and speeches at Kirketorget, but for the city's residents, the celebration will continue throughout the year.