Stavanger is a city and municipality in Norway. The city is the third largest urban zone and metropolitan area in Norway and the administrative centre of Rogaland county. It is also to be counted as the fourth largest city in the country and fourth most populous municipality, surpassed only by Oslo, Bergen and Trondheim. Located on the Stavanger peninsula in Southwest Norway, Stavanger counts its official founding year as 1125, the year Stavanger cathedral was completed. Stavanger's core is to a large degree 18th and 19th century wooden houses that are protected and considered part of the city's cultural heritage. This has caused the town centre and inner city to retain a small-town character with an unusually high ratio of detached houses, and has contributed significantly to spreading the city's population growth to outlying parts of Greater Stavanger.
The city's rapid population growth in the late 1900s was primarily a result of Norway's booming offshore oil industry. Today the oil industry is a key industry in the Stavanger region and the city is widely referred to as the Oil Capital of Norway. The largest company in the Nordic region, Norwegian energy company Statoil is headquartered in Stavanger. Multiple educational institutions for higher education are located in Stavanger. The largest of these is the University of Stavanger, which offers doctorates in Petroleum Technology and Offshore Technology among others.
Domestic and international military installations are located in Stavanger, and among these is NATO's Joint Warfare Center. Other international establishments, and especially local branches of foreign oil and gas companies, contribute further to a significant foreign population in the city. Immigrants make up 11.3% of Stavanger's population. Stavanger has since the early 2000s consistently had an unemployment rate significantly lower than the Norwegian and European average. In 2011, the unemployment rate was less than 2%. The city is also among those that frequent various lists of expensive cities in the world, and Stavanger has even been ranked as the world's most expensive city by certain indexes.
Stavanger is served by international airport Stavanger Airport, Sola, which offers flights to cities in most major European states, as well as a limited number of intercontinental charter flights. The airport was named most punctual European regional airport by flightstats.com in 2010.
The first traces of settlement in the Stavanger region come from the days when the ice retreated after the last ice age ca. 10,000 years ago. A number of historians have argued convincingly that North-Jæren was an economic and military centre as far back as the 9th-10th century with the consolidation of the nation at the Battle of Hafrsfjord around 872. Stavanger grew into a centre of church administration and an important south-west coast market town around 1100–1300.
Stavanger fulfilled an urban role prior to its status as city (1125), from around the time the Stavanger bishopric was established in the 1120s. Bishop Reinald, who may have come from Winchester, England, is said to have started construction of Stavanger Cathedral (Stavanger domkirke) around 1100. It was finished around 1125, and the city of Stavanger counts 1125 as its year of foundation.
With the Protestant Reformation in 1536, Stavanger's role as a religious centre declined, and the establishment of Kristiansand in the early 17th century led to the relocation of the bishopric. However, rich herring fisheries in the 19th century gave the city new life. Stavanger was established as a municipality 1 January 1838 (see formannskapsdistrikt). The then rural municipalities of Hetland and Madla merged with Stavanger 1 January 1965.
The city's history is a continuous alternation between economic booms and recessions.  For long periods of time its most important industries have been shipping, shipbuilding, the fish canning industry and associated subcontractors.
In 1969, a new boom started as oil was first discovered in the North Sea.  After much discussion, Stavanger was chosen to be the on-shore center for the oil industry on the Norwegian sector of the North Sea, and a period of hectic growth followed.
Coat of arms
Hallvard Trætteberg (1898–1987), a leading specialist in heraldry, was commissioned to design the official coat of arms of Stavanger, a work that lasted from the end of the 1920s and until approved in 1939. His design is also used as the city's arms, flag and seal. The coat of arms is based upon a seal which dated 1591. It shows a branch of vine (Vitis vinifera). Which leaves and branch type that is depicted on the coat of arms has been hotly debated. The original meaning and representation of the vine remains unknown.
Origin of the name
The Old Norse form of the name was Stafangr. The origin of the name has been discussed for decades, and the most used interpretation is that it originally was the name of the inlet now called Vågen which was the original of the city on the east shore of the bay.
The first element of the name is stafr meaning 'staff, branch'. This could refer to the form of the inlet, but also to the form of the mountain Valberget Staven meaning the staff is a common name of high and steep mountains in Norway. The last element is angr meaning 'inlet, bay'. Facing the North Sea, Stavanger has always been economically dependent on its access to the sea.