Visnes’ Little Statue of Liberty, Norway

The Little Statue of Liberty in Visnes, Norway

photography by: Omri Westmark

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On first glance, the Norwegian village of Visnes might seem utterly unassuming. Nevertheless, this coastal hamlet was once home to the largest copper mine across Norway and even more importantly, the purported birthplace of the world’s most famous sculpture, the Statue of Liberty.

Nestled along the rocky coastline south of Haugesund, Visnes is a small village of about 600 inhabitants. While intuitively, this low-key hamlet doesn’t seem particularly alluring for visitors, it is unexpectedly connected to one of the world’s most widely recognized monuments, the Statue of Liberty in New York City, gifted by France to the American People to celebrate a century of US independence.


Back in 1865, large deposits of copper were discovered across the village which in a matter of decade or so transformed this otherwise rural community into an industrial powerhouse, exporting massive amounts of copper ore. In its heyday, Visnes was home to more than 3,000 residents as its mine, formerly dubbed as Norway’s largest workplace, attracted newcomers from the surrounding villages and towns.


Visnes’ real fame, though, came when allegedly, some of its mined copper was incorporated in the Statue of Liberty, the globally renowned brainchild of Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi and Gustave Eiffel. Story has it that Japy Frères, the French company that owned the mine, provided much if not all of the metal, which was would later be used to construct the sculpture’s outer layers.


Up until relatively recently, this bold claim was vastly regarded as a desperate attempt by the villagers to remain in the spotlight as their former source of livelihood, Vigsnes copper mine, was permanently closed in 1972. At first, the task of conclusively proving the Norwegian origins of Lady Liberty seemed unattainable given the lack of any documentation. It wasn’t until the mid-1980’s, when samples of copper from the sculpted lady were compared with those of Visnes, that the village’s claim to fame could finally be verified.


To commemorate this surprising affinity between the Big Apple and this speck of rural Norway, Visnes later inaugurated a small replica of the Statue of Liberty on its shores. Whilst the little sculpture is somewhat a far cry from its original counterpart, it still offers a glimpse to the actual place of birth of the most iconic monument that was ever built anywhere in the US.