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Henrik Arnold Thaulow Wergeland (17 June 1808 – 12 July 1845) was a Norwegian writer, most celebrated for his poetry but also a prolific playwright, polemicist, historian, and linguist. He is often described as a leading pioneer in the development of a distinctly Norwegian literary heritage and of modern Norwegian culture. He was the oldest son of Nicolai Wergeland, who had been a member of the constituent assembly at Eidsvoll in 1814.

The father was himself pastor of Eidsvold and the poet was thus brought up in the very holy of holies of Norwegian patriotism. Wergeland´s younger sister was Camilla Collett and younger brother major general Joseph Frantz Oscar Wergeland. Henrik Wergeland entered The Royal Frederick University in 1825 to study for the church and graduated in 1829. That year, he became a symbol of the fight for celebration of the constitution at 17 May, which was later to become the Norwegian National Day.

He became a public hero after the infamous "battle of the Square" in Christiania, which came to pass because any celebration of the national day was forbidden by royal decree. Wergeland was, of course, present and became renowned for standing up against the local governors. Later, he became the first to give a public address on behalf of the day and thus he was given credit as the one who "initiated the day". His grave and statues are decorated by students and school children every year.

Notably, the Jewish community of Oslo pays their respects at his grave on 17 May, in appreciation of his successful efforts to allow Jews into Norway. Though Wergeland only lived to be 37, his range of pursuits covered literature, theology, history, contemporary politics, social issues, and science. His views were controversial in his time, and his literary style was variously denounced as subversive.

His statue stands between the Royal Palace and Storting by Oslo´s main street, his back turned to Nationalteateret. On Norwegian Constitution Day, it receives an annual wreath of flowers from students at the University of Oslo. This monument was raised on 17 May 1881, and the oration at this occasion was given by Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson. During the Second World War, the Nazi occupiers forbade any celebration of Wergeland.



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