Norwegian Len

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A Len is similar to a county in Norway and is a term used in the 1500-1600s prior to the term Amt. The term Amt was changed to Fylke around 1919.

In the 1600s there were 17 Lens in Norway.


Agdesiden Len

This Len was one with 9 main districts. There were 9 hovedlen (main Len) in Norway in the 1600s. Besides the 9 Len there were 17 smålen (smaller districts). Agdesiden included Lister and Mandal (also called Midtsyssel Len) and Nedenes and Råbyggelaget Len. What we today know as the counties of Aust-Agder and Vest- Agder. Nedenes Amt was changed to Aust-Agder fylke in 1918. Lister og Mandal amt was changed to Vest-Agder fylke January 1st 1919.

Akershus Len

Was an administrative district with Oslo city as the administrative seat.

From 1503 there were four Slottslen (palace districts) or Hovedlen (Head districts) in Norway.

• Akershus

• Båhuslen

• Bergenshus

• Trondheim (including North Norway)

Høvedsmannen (the head person) at Akershus palace had the tile of Lensherre (Lens master) over Akershus Len. He ruled most of Østlandet (the eastern part of Norway) in behalf of the king in Copenhagen. He delegated this large area under his jurisdiction into underlen (sub lens) or futedømme (bailiff or sheriff len). These sub len changed often, but in 1560 the following sub len were in existence:

• Smaalenene (Østfold)

• Hamar (Middle and north Hedmark)

• Idre og Særna (Swedish communities)

• Brunla (Numedal and the southern part of Vestfold)

• Tønsberg (Northern Vestfold) • Bratsberg (Telemark) • Nedenes (outer part of Aust-Agder)

• Råbyggelaget (Inner part of Aust-Agder)

• Mandal (Western part of Vest-Agder)

The mainLen included the rest of East Norway.

In 1662 the len as an administrative description for Akershus hovedlen (main len) changed to Akershus Stiftamt. The name Akershus stiftamt was changed to Akershus fylke January 1st 1819.

Bergenhus Len

Was an administrative jurisdiction in Norway and included most of the west coast as well as Nord-Norge (North Norway) with the city of Bergen as the administrative city and export harbor.

From the mid 1540 Nord-Norge (North-Norway) with Bergen as the head seat included the following sub-Len:

• Lister (West Vest-Agder)

• Stavanger (Rogaland) • Hardanger

• Luster • Nordfjord • Sunnmøre

• Helgeland

• Salten

• Lofoten and Vesterålen

• Andenes (Andøya)

• Senja (South part of what today is Troms county)

• Troms (Middle and Northern part of Troms County)

• Vardøhus (Finnmark County)

The head Len (Bergen) included the remaining parts of what today is known as Hordaland and Sogn og Fjordane counties.

The Lensherre of Chieftains from 1500-1570 as follows:

• 1489 – Otte Matssøn

• 1496 – David Sinclar

• 1501 – Anders Mus

• 1502-04 - Olav Ottessøn (son of Otte Mattssøn)

• 1502-1503 – Bishop Hans of Bergen

• 1503-1507 – Henrik Bagge

• 1506 – Mogens Jensøn

• 1508 – Hans Krukow

• 1509 – Lauritz Jenssøn

• 1514 – Hermann Willumssøn

• 1514-23 – Jørgen Hanssøn

• 1523 – Hans Knutssøn (appointed by Jørgen Hanssøn)

• 1523-1529 – Vincent Lunge

• 1529-37 – Eske Bille

• 1537 – Tord Roedt

• 1542 – Christoffer Huidtfelt

• 1556-59 – Christoffer Valkendort

• 1559-68 – Erik Rosenkrantz

• 1568 – Mathias Scheel


Båhuslen was a Norwegian province located in the coastal area from the island Hisingen from the river Gøta in the south to Iddefjorden in the north. Båhuslen is an area now located in the modern county Göteborg och Bohus in Sweden which today is a Swedish landscape named Bohuslän. Båhuslen used to belong to Oslo Diocese and in the 1500-1600s included the important cities Marstrand, Oddevoll and Konghelle. Båhuslen was ruled from Båhuslen fortress but did not include any sub lens.

This area in Norway was lost to Sweden in 1658.

Hamar Len

Hamar Len was an administrative jurisdiction in Norway around 1500s and included the middle and northern part of what today is Hedmark County. This Len reported to the head chieftain in Akerhus Len.

Heggen and Frøland Len

Heggen and Frøland len was an administrative jurisdiction from about the middle- ages to the mid 1600s and was located in what today is called Østfold County. It included the area today called Rakkestad, Heggen and Frøland fogderi in Smaalenene amt. Smaalenene amt became Østfold County January 1st 1919.

Idd and Marker Len

Idd and marker Len was an administrative area from around the middle- ages to the 1600s and included the area called Idd and Marker fogderi in Smaalenenes amt. The name Smaalenenes amt was changed to Østfold fylke January 1st 1919.

Nordlandenes Len

Nordlandenes Len was an administrative area which had been divided into many sub-lens under the main Bergenshus len. During the rule of King Christian IV in 1604 it was decided that it was to be combined into the large Norlandenes Len which at that time included fogderiene (bailiff- or sheriff ships) Helgeland, Salten, Lofoten/Vesterålen, Senja and Tromsø. In 1662 the term Len was changed to Amt and it became Norlandenes amt and it was to report to Bergenshus Stiftamt. In 1680 it was combined with Vardøhus amt and named Nordlands amt with a name change in 1918 to Nordland fylke.

Onsø Len

Onsø Len was an administrative area from the middle- ages to the 1600s and is today located within Østfold County. In 1670 the term len was changed and Onsø len became part of Onsø in Moss, Onsø, Tune and Vembe fogderi (bailiff-sheriff ship) in the old Smaalenenes amt. Smaalenes amt was changed again January 1st 1919 to Østfold fylke.

Rakkestad and Mossedal Len

Rakkestad and Mossedal Len was an administrate jurisdiction from the middle-ages to the middle of 1600s and was located within today’s Østfold county. In the 1670s the len was divided and Rakkestad became part of what was called Rakkestad, Heggen og Frøland fogderi (bailiff-sheriffships); and Mossedal was united with Hobø,l Onsø, tune and Bemve fogderi both in Smaalenenes amt. Smaalenens amt was changed to Østfold fylke January 1st 1919.


Slottslen (palace Len) or hovedlen (ruling Len) are terms used for the four main Len in Norway. There were:

• Akershus

• Båhus

• Bergenhus

• Trondheim


Smaalenene was an early term for many smaller Len today located in Østfold County. This must not be confused with other combined len jurisdictions located elsewhere in Norway. The name Smaalenene amt was changed to Østfold fylke January 1st 1919.

Stavanger Len

Stavanger len was established by dividing Rygjafylket from Bergenhus. The name Stavanger len was changed in 1662 to Stavanger amt. This name was later changed to Rogaland fylke.

Tronhhjems Len

Trondheim Len was an administrative jurisdiction in Norway and included Nidaros, later the name was change to Trondheim City.

Tune and Åbygge Len

Tune and Åbygge len was an administrative area in what today is located within Østfold County.

Tønsberg Len

Tønsberg len was in existence from the late middle-ages until the middle of 1600s. In 1560 it included what today is Vestfold Fylke (county) northern part of Nøtterøy, as well as Kongsberg and the surrounding areas in Buskerud County. The name was changed in 1684 to Jarlsberg grevskap, and the city named Tønsberg was divided from the len as well. Later the name was changed to Jarlsberg og Larvik amt, and then finally to Vestfold fylke.

Verne Kloster Len

Verne Kloster len (Moss fogderi) was an administrative area located in today’s Østfold County. It was in existance from the mid- middle ages until the mid 1600s. Around 1670 it was changed and Verne Kloster len became an area in Smaalenenes amt. Smaalenenes amt was changed to Østfold fylke January 1st 1919.

Sources: -Wikipedia. ”Len.” <> Accessed 15 November 2012.

-Imsen, Steinar and Winge, Harald. Norsk Historisk Leksikon: Kultur og samfunn ca. 1500 – 1800 pages 256-261, 2nd. Ed. (Oslo, Cappelen Akademisk Forlag, 2004). Accessed 19 November 2012.