At the end of the 16th century, witch-hunts started to spread through large parts of Europe. These persecutions culminated during the 17th century. Vardø, the easternmost point in Norway, was where the greatest number of persons were convicted of sorcery and burnt at the stake in this country. Between 1600 and 1692, a total of 135 individuals were accused of sorcery in Finnmark County. Of these, 91 were convicted, the majority in Vardø.
As part of the establishment of the Millennium Site in 2000, Vardø Municipality took the initiative to erect a memorial to commemorate the victims of the witch-hunts. The project was implemented under the auspices of a committee comprising representatives of Vardø Municipality, Finnmark County, Varanger Museum and the Norwegian Public Roads Administration.
The Steilneset Memorial will be located adjacent to the assumed execution site, with a view of the old church and the fortress. The historical events are communicated through art and architecture at an international level, in the form of a unique cooperation between the artist Louise Bourgeois and the architect Peter Zumthor. The first sketches for the project were completed in the autumn of 2006.