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

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

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 ...
Founded: 1637 | 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

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

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, ...
Founded: 1626 | Location: Copenhagen, 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

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

Ulstrup Castle

Ulstrup Castle traces its history back to the end of the 14th century when it was owned by Jens Brandsen. Later owners include Queen Margaret I but the original house later disappeared and Ulstrup continued to exist as a village. It was acquired by privy councilor Christen Skeel in 1579 and dissolved to make way for his new manor house which was built in 1591. The building was expanded between 1615 and 1617 by his son, J& ...
Founded: 1591 | Location: Ulstrup, 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

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

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

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

Dronninglund Castle

Dronninglund Castle is a former royal residence located in the northern part of the Jutland Peninsula. Its history goes back to the 12th century, when it was the Benedictine monastery of Hundslund Priory. After the last nuns left it in 1581, it was first owned by the Lindenow family. In 1690, Queen Charlotte Amalie acquired it. It is from her that the palace takes the name Dronninglund, meaning 'queens forest'. ...
Founded: 16th century | Location: Dronninglund, 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

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 ki ...
Founded: 1639-1644 | Location: Svendborg, 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

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

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 Kors&os ...
Founded: 1610 | Location: Korsør, 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

Venø Church

Venø Church"s age is difficult to date but it was probably built around the time of the Reformation (1536), making it the oldest building on the island. According to tradition, it is the smallest church in Denmark measuring only 9.8 by 4.2 meters. The low ceiling and the limited seating capacity (only about 50 places) reinforce this impression. The church is built of fieldstone while brick has been used for th ...
Founded: c. 1536 | Location: Struer, 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 ...
Founded: 1547-1575 | Location: Haslev, 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

Broholm Castle

Broholm is a private estate and manor house, first mentioned in 1326 when owned by Absalon Jonsen Ulfeldt. From 1641, it was inherited by the Skeel and Sehested families for whom it was the seat from 1759 to 1930. The main wing with its round tower was built for Otte Skeel in 1644. In 1839, it was renovated in the Neo-Gothic style by Gustav Friedrich Hetsch. The corner tower was added in 1895 and the south wing in 1905. S ...
Founded: 1644 | Location: Gudme, Denmark

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Castle de Haar

Castle de Haar is the largest and most fairytale-like castle in the Netherlands. The current buildings, all built upon the original castle, date from 1892 and are the work of Dutch architect P.J.H. Cuypers, in a Neo-Gothic restoration project funded by the Rothschild family.

The oldest historical record of a building at the location of the current castle dates to 1391. In that year, the family De Haar received the castle and the surrounding lands as fiefdom from Hendrik van Woerden. The castle remained in the ownership of the De Haar family until 1440, when the last male heir died childless. The castle then passed to the Van Zuylen family. In 1482, the castle was burned down and the walls were torn down, except for the parts that did not have a military function. These parts probably were incorporated into the castle when it was rebuilt during the early 16th century. The castle is mentioned in an inventory of the possessions of Steven van Zuylen from 1506, and again in a list of fiefdoms in the province Utrecht from 1536. The oldest image of the castle dates to 1554 and shows that the castle had been largely rebuilt by then. After 1641, when Johan van Zuylen van der Haar died childless, the castle seems to have gradually fallen into ruins. The castle escaped from total destruction by the French during the Rampjaar 1672.

In 1801 the last catholic van Zuylen in the Netherlands, the bachelor Anton-Martinus van Zuylen van Nijevelt (1708-1801) bequeathed the property to his cousin Jean-Jacques van Zuylen van Nyevelt (1752-1846) of the catholic branch in the Southern Netherlands. In 1890, De Haar was inherited by Jean-Jacques' grandson Etienne Gustave Frédéric Baron van Zuylen van Nyevelt van de Haar (1860-1934), who married Baroness Hélène de Rothschild. They contracted architect Pierre Cuypers in 1892 to rebuild the ruinous castle, which took 15 years.

In 1887, the inheritor of the castle-ruins, Etienne van Zuylen van Nijevelt, married Hélène de Rothschild, of theRothschild family. Fully financed by Hélène's family, the Rothschilds, the couple set about rebuilding the castle from its ruins. For the restoration of the castle, the famous architect Pierre Cuypers was hired. He would be working on this project for 20 years (from 1892 to 1912). The castle has 200 rooms and 30 bathrooms, of which only a small number on the ground floor have been opened to be viewed by the public. In the hall, Cuypers has placed a statue with his own image in a corner of the gallery on the first floor.

The castle was equipped by Cuypers with the most modern gadgets, such as electrical lighting with its own generator, and central heating by way of steam. This installation is internationally recognized as an industrial monument. The kitchen was for that period also very modern and still has a large collection of copper pots and pans and an enormous furnace of approximately 6 metres long, which is heated with peat or coals. The tiles in the kitchen are decorated with the coats of arms of the families De Haar and Van Zuylen, which were for this purpose especially baked in Franeker. Cuypers marked out the difference between the old walls and the new bricks, by using a different kind of brick for the new walls. For the interior Cuypers made a lot of use of cast iron.

In the castle one can see many details which reminds one of the family De Rothschild, such as the David stars on the balconies of the knight's hall, the motto of the family on the hearth in the knight's hall (A majoribus et virtute) and the coat of arms of the family right underneath on the hearth in the library.

The interior of the castle is decorated with richly ornamented woodcarving, which reminds one of the interior of a Roman Catholic church. This carving was made in the workshop of Cuypers in Roermond. The place where later also the interiors of many Roman Catholic churches were made, designed by Cuypers. Cuypers even designed the tableware. The interior is also furnished with many works of the Rothschild collections, including beautiful old porcelain from Japan and China, and several old Flemish tapestries and paintings with religious illustrations. A showpiece is a carrier coach of the woman of a Shogun from Japan. There is only one more left in the world, which stands in a museum in Tokyo. Many Japanese tourists come to De Haar to admire exactly this coach, which was donated from the Rothschilds collections.

Surrounding the castle there is a park, designed by Hendrik Copijn, for which Van Zuylen ordered 7000 fully grown trees. Because these could not be transported through the city of Utrecht, Van Zuylen bought a house and tore it down. The park contains many waterworks and a formal garden which reminds one of the French gardens of Versailles. During the Second World War many of the gardens were lost, because the wood was used to light fires, and the soil was used to grow vegetables upon. At this time, the gardens are restored in their old splendor.

For the decoration of the park, the village Haarzuilens, except for the town church, was broken down. The inhabitants were moved to a place a kilometer further up, where a new Haarzuilens arose, where they lived as tenants of the lord of the castle. This new village was also built in a pseudo-medieval style, including a rural village green. The buildings were for the most part designed by Cuypers and his son Joseph Cuypers.