History of Sweden between 1523 - 1610
The Early Vasa era is a period that in Swedish history lasted between 1523–1611. It began with the reconquest of Stockholm by Gustav Vasa and his men from the Danes in 1523, and Sweden's consequent abandonment of the Kalmar Union, and continued with the reign of Gustav's sons Eric XIV, John III, John's son Sigismund, and finally Gustav's youngest son Charles IX.
In 1520, Stockholm was taken by Christian II of Denmark and became the scene of the Stockholm Bloodbath. By 1521, Gustav Eriksson, a nobleman and relative of Sten Sture the Elder, managed to gather troops from Dalarna in north-west Sweden and help from Lübeck, with the purpose of defeating the Danes. In August 1521, his men elected him their monarch. The Swedish War of Liberation started, and would last until the capture of Stockholm, in June 1523. Gustav Vasa then consolidated his rule against claims from Denmark.
Tax reforms took place in 1538 and 1558, whereby multiple complex taxes on independent farmers were simplified and standardized throughout the district; tax assessments per farm were adjusted to reflect ability to pay. A war with Luebeck in 1535 resulted in the expulsion of the Hanseatic traders, who previously had had a monopoly of foreign trade. With its own businessmen in charge Sweden's economic strength grew rapidly. Sweden now built the first modern army in Europe, supported by a sophisticated tax system and government bureaucracy. Gustavus proclaimed the Swedish crown hereditary in his family, the house of Vasa. It ruled Sweden (1523–1654) and Poland (1587–1668).
After Gustav's death, his oldest son Eric XIV ascended the throne. His regency was marked by Sweden's entrance into the Livonian War and the Northern Seven Years' War, and the mutual relation between his developing mental disorder and the opposition with the aristocracy, leading to the Sture Murders (1567) and the imprisonment of his brother John (III), who was married to Catherine Jagiellonica, the sister of Sigismund II of Poland. A magnates' uprising led by John led to Erik's deposition and the kingship of John, followed by the regency of John's son Sigismund. Sigismund however was not able to defend the throne against Gustav's youngest son Charles (IX).
Gustav's reign was marked by internal political and religious reforms, including the Protestant reformation and a unification of the provinces. At the death of Gustav of 1560, he was succeeded by his oldest son Eric. Eric was intelligent and skilled, but was in a constant strain with his brother and other noblemen. He engaged in warfare against Denmark, Russia and Poland, but suffered periods of insanity in 1567. In 1568 he was dethroned and succeeded by his brother John. John stabilized the international situation and made peace. He also wanted to partially restore Roman Catholicism but the idea did not come through in the end.
At the death of John in 1592, his son Sigismund succeeded him. Sigismund was at that time already king of the Polish throne, through his mother, and he would rule Poland from 1587 to 1632. He set up regency and continued to reside in Poland. On learning about the Uppsala Synod, that finally declared Sweden's Lutheran doctrines, he returned home to protest. He found that the Riksdag of the Estates had already dethroned him and replaced him by Gustav Vasa's youngest son, his uncle, Charles IX. A brief civil war ensued that Sigismund lost in 1598, where after he fled the country never to return.
The Porta Nigra (Latin for black gate) is the largest Roman city gate north of the Alps. It is designated as part of the Roman Monuments, Cathedral of St. Peter and Church of Our Lady in Trier UNESCO World Heritage Site. The name Porta Nigra originated in the Middle Ages due to the darkened colour of its stone; the original Roman name has not been preserved. Locals commonly refer to the Porta Nigra simply as Porta.
The Porta Nigra was built in grey sandstone between 186 and 200 AD. The original gate consisted of two four-storied towers, projecting as near semicircles on the outer side. A narrow courtyard separated the two gate openings on either side. For unknown reasons, however, the construction of the gate remained unfinished. For example, the stones at the northern (outer) side of the gate were never abraded, and the protruding stones would have made it impossible to install movable gates. Nonetheless, the gate was used for several centuries until the end of the Roman era in Trier.
In Roman times, the Porta Nigra was part of a system of four city gates, one of which stood at each side of the roughly rectangular Roman city. The Porta Nigra guarded the northern entry to the Roman city, while the Porta Alba (White Gate) was built in the east, the Porta Media (Middle Gate) in the south, and the Porta Inclyta (Famous Gate) in the west, next to the Roman bridge across the Moselle. The gates stood at the ends of the two main streets of the Roman Trier, one of which led north-south and the other east-west. Of these gates, only the Porta Nigra still exists today.
In the early Middle Ages the Roman city gates were no longer used for their original function and their stones were taken and reused for other buildings. Also iron and lead braces were broken out of the walls of the Porta Nigra for reuse. Traces of this destruction are still clearly visible on the north side of the gate.
After 1028, the Greek monk Simeon lived as a hermit in the ruins of the Porta Nigra. After his death (1035) and sanctification, the Simeonstift monastery was built next to the Porta Nigra to honor him. Saving it from further destruction, the Porta Nigra was transformed into a church: The inner court of the gate was roofed and intermediate ceilings were inserted. The two middle storeys of the former gate were converted into church naves: the upper storey being for the monks and the lower storey for the general public. The ground floor with the large gates was sealed, and a large outside staircase was constructed alongside the south side (the town side) of the gate, up to the lower storey of the church. A small staircase led further up to the upper storey. The church rooms were accessible through former windows of the western tower of the Porta Nigra that were enlarged to become entrance doors (still visible today). The top floor of the western tower was used as church tower, the eastern tower was leveled, and an apse added at its east side. An additional gate - the much smaller Simeon Gate - was built adjacent to the East side of the Porta Nigra and served as a city gate in medieval times.
In 1802 Napoleon Bonaparte dissolved the church in the Porta Nigra and the monastery beside it, along with the vast majority of Trier"s numerous churches and monasteries. On his visit to Trier in 1804, Napoleon ordered that the Porta Nigra be converted back to its Roman form. Only the apse was kept; but the eastern tower was not rebuilt to its original height. Local legend has it that Napoleon originally wanted to completely tear down the church, but locals convinced him that the church had actually been a Gaulish festival hall before being turned into a church. Another version of the story is that they told him about its Roman origins, persuading him to convert the gate back to its original form.
In 1986 the Porta Nigra was designated a World Heritage Site, along with other Roman monuments in Trier and its surroundings. The modern appearance of the Porta Nigra goes back almost unchanged to the reconstruction ordered by Napoleon. At the south side of the Porta Nigra, remains of Roman columns line the last 100 m of the street leading to the gate. Positioned where they had stood in Roman times, they give a slight impression of the aspect of the original Roman street that was lined with colonnades. The Porta Nigra, including the upper floors, is open to visitors.