Early Modern Denmark

History of Denmark between 1523 - 1658

The Reformation

The Reformation, which originated in the German lands in the early 16th century from the ideas of Martin Luther (1483–1546), had a considerable impact on Denmark. The Danish Reformation started in the mid-1520s. Some Danes wanted access to the Bible in their own language. In 1524 Hans Mikkelsen and Christiern Pedersen translated the New Testament into Danish.

Hans Tausen, a Danish monk, had traveled to Wittenberg in Saxony and come under the influence of the teachings of Luther. On Good Friday in 1525, Tausen used the pulpit at Antvorskov Abbey Church to proclaim Luther's reforms. Tausen's preaching converted ordinary people, merchants, nobles, and monks and even the Prior grew to appreciate Tausen and ordered his release. Viborg became the center for the Danish Reformation for a time. Lutheranism spread quickly to Aarhus and Aalborg.

Within months King Frederick appointed Tausen as one of his personal chaplains (October 1526) in order to protect him from Catholics. Tausen's version of Luther's ideas spread throughout Denmark. Copenhagen became a hotbed of reformist activity and Tausen moved there to continue his work. Luther's ideas spread rapidly as a consequence of a powerful combination of popular enthusiasm for church reform and a royal eagerness to secure greater wealth through the seizure of church lands and property. In Denmark the reformation increased the crown's revenues by 300%. Frederick I died in 1533. His successor King Christian III carried out the Protestant Reformation in Slesvig, Holsten, Denmark and Norway, but caused also lot of resistance.

Count's Feud

Christian III of Denmark
Christian III of Denmark
in 1534 an armed rebellion by Catholic peasants led by Skipper Clement started in northern Jutland. Rebellion swept across Funen, Zealand and Skåne. Christian III's army soundly defeated an army of Catholic nobles at Svenstrup on 16 October 1534. Christian forced a truce with the Hanseatic League, which had sent troops to help Count Christopher. Christian III's army, under Johan Rantzau, chased the rebels all the way back to Aalborg and then massacred over two thousand of them inside the city in December 1534.

The Protestants captured Skipper Clement (1534), and later executed him in 1536. Christian III's mercenary troops put an end to Catholic hopes on Zealand and then Funen. Skåne rebels went as far as proclaiming Christian II king again. King Gustav Vasa of Sweden sent two separate armies to ravage Halland and Skåne into submission. Besiegers finally starved the last hold-outs in the rebellion, Copenhagen and Malmø, into surrender in July 1536. By the spring of 1536 Christian III had taken firm control. Denmark became officially Lutheran on 30 October 1536.


Powerful Kingdom

The Dano-Norwegian Kingdom grew wealthy during the 16th century, largely because of the increased traffic through the Øresund, which Danes could tax because Denmark controlled both sides of the Sound. The trade in grain exports from Poland to the Netherlands and to the rest of Europe grew enormously at this time, and the Danish kings did not hesitate to cash in on it.

The Danish economy benefited from the Eighty Years' War (1568–1648) in the Netherlands because a large number of skilled refugees from that area (the most economically advanced in Europe) came to Denmark. This helped to modernize many aspects of society and to establish trading links between Denmark and the Netherlands.

Denmark–Norway had a reputation as a relatively powerful kingdom at this time. European politics of the 16th century revolved largely around the struggle between Catholic and Protestant forces, so it seemed almost inevitable that Denmark, a strong, unified Lutheran kingdom, would get drawn into the larger war when it came. The Thirty Years' War went badly for the Protestant states in the early 1620s, and a call went out to Denmark–Norway to "save the Protestant cause".

King Christian IV, who was also a duke of the Holy Roman Empire on the basis of his possessions in Holstein, decided to intervene in the conflict raging in northern Germany. The campaign ended in defeat, and Jutland was occupied by the imperial army of Albrecht von Wallenstein. In the Treaty of Lübeck, Christian made peace and agreed to not intervene in Germany again. The war in Germany had been very expensive and Christian IV saw no other recourse than to raise the Sound tolls. Unfortunately, this act pushed the Netherlands away from Denmark and into the arms of Sweden.

Torstenson War (1643–1645)

In 1643, Sweden's armies, under the command of Lennart Torstenson, suddenly invaded Denmark without declaring war. The ensuing conflict became known as the Torstenson War. The Netherlands, wishing to end the Danish stranglehold on the Baltic, joined the Swedes in their war against Denmark–Norway. In October 1644 a combined Dutch-Swedish fleet destroyed 80 percent of the Danish fleet in the Battle of Femern. The result of this defeat proved disastrous for Denmark–Norway: in the Second treaty of Brömsebro (1645) Denmark ceded to Sweden the Norwegian provinces Jemtland, Herjedalen and Älvdalen as well as the Danish islands of Gotland and Øsel. Halland went to Sweden for a period of 30 years and the Netherlands were exempted from paying the Sound Duty.

Nevertheless, Danes remember Christian IV as one of the great kings of Denmark. He had a very long reign, from 1588 to 1648, and has become known as "the architect on the Danish throne" because of the large number of building projects he undertook. Many of the great buildings of Denmark date from his reign. After the death of Christian IV in 1648, his son Frederick succeeded him.

References: Wikipedia

Popular sites founded between 1523 and 1658 in Denmark

Rundetårn

The Rundetårn (Round Tower) is a 17th-century tower located in central Copenhagen. One of the many architectural projects of Christian IV, it was built as an astronomical observatory. It is most noted for its 7.5-turn helical corridor leading to the top, and for the expansive views it affords over Copenhagen. The tower is part of the Trinitatis Complex which also provided the scholars of the time with a university chape ...
Founded: 1637 | Location: Copenhagen, Denmark

Trinitatis Church

Trinitatis Church is part of the 17th century Trinitatis Complex, which includes the Rundetårn astronomical observatory tower and the Copenhagen University Library, in addition to the church. Built in the time of Christian IV, the church initially served the students of Copenhagen University. The interior was seriously damaged in the fire of 1728 but was rebuilt in 1731. The bases and capitals of the columns and ar ...
Founded: 1637 | Location: Copenhagen, Denmark

Caritas Well

The Caritas Well (Caritasbrønden) is the oldest fountain in Copenhagen. It was built in 1608 by Christian IV and is located on Gammeltorv, now part of the Strøget pedestrian zone. It is considered one of the city"s finest Renaissance monuments. The Caritas Well is a result of a relocation and modernization of an older fountain erected by Frederik II. He provided for the construction of a 6km long water ...
Founded: 1608 | Location: Copenhagen, Denmark

Rosenborg Castle

Rosenborg Palace was built in the period 1606-34 as Christian IV’s summerhouse just outside the ramparts of Copenhagen. Christian IV was very fond of the palace and often stayed at the castle when he resided in Copenhagen, and it was here that he died in 1648. After his death, the palace passed to his son King Frederik III, who together with his queen, Sophie Amalie, carried out several types of modernisation. The ...
Founded: 1606-1624 | Location: Copenhagen, Denmark

Church of Holmen

The Church of Holmen (Holmens Kirke) was first built as an anchor forge in 1563 and converted into a naval church by Christian IV. It is famous for having hosted the wedding between Margrethe II of Denmark, current queen of Denmark, and Prince Henrik in 1967. It is the burial site of such notabilities as naval heroes Niels Juel and Peter Tordenskjold, and composer Niels Wilhelm Gade, and contains artwork by, among others, ...
Founded: 1563 | Location: Copenhagen, Denmark

Kronborg Castle

Kronborg Castle is an outstanding example of the Renaissance castle, and one which played a highly significant role in the history of this region of northern Europe. After he began to levy duty on ships passing through the Sound between Sjaelland and Scania around 1425, King Erik of Pomerania built a castle known as Krogen on the site occupied today by Kronborg. It was in 1574 that King Frederik II of Denmark used this s ...
Founded: 1574-1585 | Location: Helsingør, Denmark

Frederiksborg Palace

Frederiksborg Palace was built as a royal residence for King Christian IV and is now a museum of national history. The current edifice replaced a previous castle erected by Frederick II and is the largest Renaissance palace in Scandinavia. The palace is located on three small islands in the middle of Palace Lake (Slotsøen) and is adjoined by a large formal garden in the Baroque style. The oldest parts of the castle date ...
Founded: 1560-1620 | Location: Hillerød, Denmark

Børsen

Børsen (The Stock Exchange) was built by Christian IV in 1619–1640 and is the oldest stock exchange in Denmark. It is particularly known for its Dragon Spire shaped as the tails of fourdragons twined together, reaching a height of 56 metres. Christian IV had ambitions to turn Copenhagen into a metropolis and to strengthen the city's position as a commercial centre, he wanted a stock exchange along with the new merchan ...
Founded: 1619–1640 | Location: Copenhagen, Denmark

Kastellet

Kastellet is one of the best preserved star fortresses in Northern Europe. It is constructed in the form of a pentagram with bastions at its corners. Kastellet was continuous with the ring of bastioned ramparts which used to encircle Copenhagen but of which only the ramparts of Christianshavn remain today. King Christian IV of Denmark initiated Kastellet’s construction in 1626 with the building of an advanced post, the ...
Founded: 1626 | Location: Copenhagen, Denmark

Aalborghus

Aalborghus is a half-timbered castle built by King Christian III from 1539 to around 1555 initially as a fortification. Soon it became the seat of the king"s provincial governors in Northern Jutland, and after the introduction of absolutism, became used by the State County of Northern Jutland for taxes. A building had pre-existed at the site before Christian III"s castle. It stood south of the castle and is men ...
Founded: 1539-1555 | Location: Aalborg, Denmark

Helsingør Cathedral

Helsingør Cathedral or St. Olaf"s Church originates from the 13th century. The current brick church was completed in 1559 and the spire was erected in 1897-1898. The interior dates mainly from the 17th century, baptismal font from 1579.
Founded: 1559 | Location: Helsingør, Denmark

Egeskov Castle

Egeskov Castle is Europe"s best preserved Renaissance water castle with a history dating to the 14th century. The castle structure was erected by Frands Brockenhuus in 1554. Due to the troubles caused by the civil war known as the Count"s Feud, general civil unrest, and a civil war introducing the Protestant Reformation, most Danish noblemen built their homes as fortifications. The castle is constructed on oaken piles and ...
Founded: 1554 | Location: Kværndrup, Denmark

St. Mary's Church

The St. Mary"s Church in Sønderborg is located on a hill and is a very iconic for the city. In the Middle Ages there was a leper colony on a hill just outside the city. It was named after Saint George and around 1300 the chapel of this leper colony stood in the place of the present St. Mary"s Church. After the old parish church of the city, the St. Nicholas Church, was demolished around 1530, the Saint-George c ...
Founded: 1595-1600 | Location: Sønderborg, Denmark

Tønder Church

Tønder Church construction began in 1591 and completed in 1592. The oldest part is the tower which was already a part of the earlier church. The church has a rich inventory like beautifully carved 16th century pulpit. The walls bear the epitaphs of the town’s rich citizens through the ages.
Founded: 1591-1592 | Location: Tønder, Denmark

Nørre Vosborg Castle

Niels Bugge was one of the first known owners of the Nørre Vosborg manor in the 14th century. In 1532 a huge storm surge enveloped and demolished the buildings, which were not rebuilt on the same site. Knud Gyldenstjerne moved Nørre Vosborg inland to its present, safer position. The estate was subsequently owned by the Linde Leths (1707–1778) and the Tangs (1783-1946), the latter family hosting many prominent guests a ...
Founded: 1552 | Location: Vemb, Denmark

Vallø Castle

Vallø traces its history back to the 14th century. From 1554 to 1651 it was divided into two separate estates, West Vallø and East Vallø. In 1708 Vallø was acquired by King Frederick IV who passed it on to Anne Sophie Reventlow. In 1731 King Christian VI passed the property on to Queen Sophia Magdalene who in 1737 founded the Noble Vallø Foundation for unmarried daughters. Vallø ...
Founded: 1580 | Location: Køge, Denmark

Fredericia Fortress

Fredericia was established as a fortress town in 1650. On the land side, the town was laid out in circular form with nine large moated bastions. On the waterfront, the town had a somewhat weaker fortification line together with a citadel as its last defence. There is every indication that Fredericia was planned as a fortress town. The streets are regular and entirely perpendicular. Fredericia was the only town in Denmark ...
Founded: 1650 | Location: Fredericia, Denmark

Valdemars Castle

Valdemars Castle was built by King Christian IV (1588–1648) between 1639 and 1644. It is designed by Hans van Stenwinkel. The king’s plans for his new castle were that the house should become the home for his son Valdemar Christian, who was born to him by Kirstine Munk. King Christian was renowned for his interest in building. On the island of Tåsinge, belonging to his mother in law Ellen Marsvin, the king decided to ...
Founded: 1639-1644 | Location: Svendborg, Denmark

Gisselfeld Castle

Gisselfeld, a former monastery, is Denmark's fifth-largest estate. The three-storeyed Renaissance-style building has stepped gables, loopholes and a projecting tower over the main gate. The grounds include a moat, a well-kept park, lake, waterfall, gardens, greenhouse, and a fountain. The estate measures 3,850 hectares, including Hesede, Edelesminde, Brødebæk and Gødstrupgård, of which 2,400 hectares is forest. Gisse ...
Founded: 1547-1575 | Location: Haslev, Denmark

Skanderborg Castle Church

The Skanderborg chapel is the only remaining part of the former Skanderborg castle which was definitively demolished in 1770. In 1562-63 King Frederick II rebuilt the medieval castle on Slotsholmen (an elevation in the ground that used to be a small island) to a modern fortress. Because of the financial difficulties of the Kingdom of Denmark the king chose to take up residence in Skanderborg. Hence in 1572 a chapel was c ...
Founded: 1572 | Location: Skanderborg, Denmark

Selsø Castle

Selsø Renaissance castle was built in 1576 by Corfitz Ulhlfeld and reconstructed in Baroque style in 1734. The castle stayed abandoned since 1829 and in periods used as a grain magazine. In 1972 the restoration of the castle was initiated. The result is that when you visit the castle today, it stands exactly as it did when it was abandoned in 1829 and started to deteriorate. There is, for example, no electricity, water o ...
Founded: 1576 | Location: Skibby, Denmark

Sønderskov Manor

Sønderskov Manor is mentioned for the first time in 1448. After 1536 the owner built a new main wing with two diagonally placed defensive towers because the nobility feared new peasants’ revolts like those they had experienced during the Count’s Feud. About 1614 Sønderskov was destroyed by fire but the owner, Thomas Juel, rebuilt it, and the new manor was finished in 1620. He was a wealthy man w ...
Founded: 1614-1620 | Location: Brorup, Denmark

Næsbyholm Castle

Næsbyholm is first mentioned in 1388. The original creator of Naesbyholm, however, was Sten Brahe who built a magnificent rennaissance castle in 1585. This burnt down, unfortunately, in 1932. A new main building was erected, but this was partially destroyed by fire in 1947. The present building was built in the style of the original. Today Næsbyholm provides wedding and event services.
Founded: 1585 | Location: Glumsø, Denmark

Korsør Fortress

The first mention of 'Korsør' dates from 1241, and it is from this period that the medieval tower dates. The tower - part of a complex of buildings that constituted Korsør Castle - was demolished in the early 1800s. The Great Magazine was constructed by order of Christian IV around 1610. On the first floor Korsør Town and Crossing Museum can be found. On the ground floor function as Korsør Town’s exhibition and eve ...
Founded: 1610 | Location: Korsør, Denmark

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Veste Coburg

The Veste Coburg is one of Germany's largest castles. The hill on which the fortress stands was inhabited from the Neolithic to the early Middle Ages according to the results of excavations. The first documentary mention of Coburg occurs in 1056, in a gift by Richeza of Lotharingia. Richeza gave her properties to Anno II, Archbishop of Cologne, to allow the creation of Saalfeld Abbey in 1071. In 1075, a chapel dedicated to Saint Peter and Saint Paul is mentioned on the fortified Coberg. This document also refers to a Vogt named Gerhart, implying that the local possessions of the Saalfeld Benedictines were administered from the hill.

A document signed by Pope Honorius II in 1206 refers to a mons coburg, a hill settlement. In the 13th century, the hill overlooked the town of Trufalistat (Coburg's predecessor) and the important trade route from Nuremberg via Erfurt to Leipzig. A document dated from 1225 uses the term schloss (palace) for the first time. At the time, the town was controlled by the Dukes of Merania. They were followed in 1248 by the Counts of Henneberg who ruled Coburg until 1353, save for a period from 1292-1312, when the House of Ascania was in charge.

In 1353, Coburg fell to Friedrich, Markgraf von Meißen of the House of Wettin. His successor, Friedrich der Streitbare was awarded the status of Elector of Saxony in 1423. As a result of the Hussite Wars the fortifications of the Veste were expanded in 1430.

Early modern times through Thirty Years' War

In 1485, in the Partition of Leipzig, Veste Coburg fell to the Ernestine branch of the family. A year later, Elector Friedrich der Weise and Johann der Beständige took over the rule of Coburg. Johann used the Veste as a residence from 1499. In 1506/07, Lucas Cranach the Elder lived and worked in the Veste. From April to October 1530, during the Diet of Augsburg, Martin Luther sought protection at the Veste, as he was under an Imperial ban at the time. Whilst he stayed at the fortress, Luther continued with his work translating the Bible into German. In 1547, Johann Ernst moved the residence of the ducal family to a more convenient and fashionable location, Ehrenburg Palace in the town centre of Coburg. The Veste now only served as a fortification.

In the further splitting of the Ernestine line, Coburg became the seat of the Herzogtum von Sachsen-Coburg, the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg. The first duke was Johann Casimir (1564-1633), who modernized the fortifications. In 1632, the fortress was unsuccessfully besieged by Imperial and Bavarian forces commanded by Albrecht von Wallenstein for seven days during the Thirty Years' War. Its defence was commanded by Georg Christoph von Taupadel. On 17 March 1635, after a renewed siege of five months' duration, the Veste was handed over to the Imperials under Guillaume de Lamboy.

17th through 19th centuries

From 1638-72, Coburg and the Veste were part of the Duchy of Saxe-Altenburg. In 1672, they passed to the Dukes of Saxe-Gotha and in 1735 it was joined to the Duchy of Saxe-Saalfeld. Following the introduction of Primogeniture by Duke Franz Josias (1697-1764), Coburg went by way of Ernst Friedrich (1724-1800) to Franz (1750-1806), noted art collector, and to Duke Ernst III (1784-1844), who remodeled the castle.

In 1826, the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha was created and Ernst now styled himself 'Ernst I'. Military use of the Veste had ceased by 1700 and outer fortifications had been demolished in 1803-38. From 1838-60, Ernst had the run-down fortress converted into a Gothic revival residence. In 1860, use of the Zeughaus as a prison (since 1782) was discontinued. Through a successful policy of political marriages, the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha established links with several of the major European dynasties, including that of the United Kingdom.

20th century

The dynasty ended with the reign of Herzog Carl Eduard (1884-1954), also known as Charles Edward, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, a grandson of Queen Victoria, who until 1919 also was the 2nd Duke of Albany in the United Kingdom. Under his rule, many changes made to the Veste in the 19th century were reversed under architect Bodo Ebhardt, with the aim of restoring a more authentic medieval look. Along with the other ruling princes of Germany, Carl Eduard was deposed in the revolution of 1918-1919. After Carl Eduard abdicated in late 1918, the Veste came into possession of the state of Bavaria, but the former duke was allowed to live there until his death. The works of art collected by the family were gifted to the Coburger Landesstiftung, a foundation, which today runs the museum.

In 1945, the Veste was seriously damaged by artillery fire in the final days of World War II. After 1946, renovation works were undertaken by the new owner, the Bayerische Verwaltung der staatlichen Schlösser, Gärten und Seen.

Today

The Veste is open to the public and today houses museums, including a collection art objects and paintings that belonged to the ducal family of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, a large collection of arms and armor, significant examples of early modern coaches and sleighs, and important collections of prints, drawings and coins.