In Norwegian the word Stortinget means ‘The Great Thing’ or ‘The Great Council’, and refers to the supreme legislature of Norway that meets under the roof of this yellow-brick building.
In terms of architecture, several plans were laid out and even a design competition was held to see who would be given the honour of designing the Norwegian Parliament. The building was finally opened in 1866. The small square in front of the Parliament is called Lion Hill after the two lion sculptures guarding the entrance of the building. These two works of art were created by two murderers, who were given life sentences for their crimes. Showing an unusual degree of compassion by public officials, the murderers were released from prison when the lion sculptures were presented to the city.
The parliament in its present form was first constituted at Eidsvoll in 1814, although its origins can be traced back to the allting or common assemblies as early as the 9th century. The alltings were localised assemblies charged with discussing legal and political matters. These gradually were formalised so that the tings, or assemblies, grew into regionalised meetings and acquired backing and authority from the crown, even to the extent that on occasions they were instrumental in effecting change in the monarchy itself. As Norway became unified as a geopolitical entity in the 10th century, the lagtings were established as superior regional assemblies.
The archaic regional assemblies, the Frostating, the Gulating, the Eidsivating and the Borgarting were amalgamated and the corpus of law was set down under the command of King Magnus Lagabøte during the mid-13th century. This jurisdiction remained significant until King Frederick III proclaimed absolute monarchy in 1660; this was ratified by the passage of the King Act of 1665, and this became the constitution of the Union of Denmark and Norway and remained so until 1814 and the foundation of the Storting.
The number of seats in the Storting has varied: from 1882 there were 114 seats, from 1903 117, from 1906 123, from 1918 126, from 1921 150, from 1973 155, from 1985 157, from 1989 165 and from 2005 169 seats.