Medieval castles in Denmark

Sønderborg Castle

Sønderborg Castle history began probably as a fortified tower constructed by Valdemar the Great in 1158. The castle was built to provide protection against attacks by the Wends and was part of a larger system of fortifications. Over the centuries, the castle has gradually been enlarged and rebuilt. In the years following construction of Valdemar"s fortified tower, an important struggle developed between the Da ...
Founded: 1350 | Location: Sønderborg, Denmark

Nyborg Castle

Nyborg Castle was first mentioned in 1193, but the town itself was not mentioned before the year 1202. There must have been wooden or half-timbered buildings inside the walls, but we have not, as yet, found traces of them. The fortress was built on a small hill. Archaeological excavations have shown that the first moat around the fortress was a dry moat. In the first half of the 1200's, a palace was built along the wester ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Nyborg, Denmark

Vaeggerløse Church

In the Middle Ages the Vaeggerløse church was dedicated to St Olaf. The chancel and nave from the late Romanesque period were built in brick on a profiled plinth with pilaster strips on the corners. The chancel's pilaster strips now only remain on its southwest corner. Originally there was also an apse which was torn down but later replaced during the restoration work in 1861 by the Hamburg architect Ernst Heinrich Glüe ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Væggerløse, Denmark

Hammershus

Hammershus is Northern Europe's largest medieval fortification, situated 74 metres above sea level. Erected in the 13th century, it was long believed that the castle was built as a private residence for the archbishop of Lund. However, new evidence found at the ruins of the castle suggests it was constructed in the beginning of the century as a royal residence for Valdemar II of Denmark and a base for the Danish crusades, ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Allinge, Denmark

Gurre Castle Ruins

Gurre Castle was a royal castle built in the 12th century. Four towers and a perimeter wall were added in the 1350s; it was excavated in the 19th century (from 1835) and is now restored. It is first mentioned in court chronicles in 1364, when Pope Urban V sent a gift of relics to its chapel. The castle is associated with a legend about a Danish king named Waldemar (usually identified with the 14th-century Valdemar IV Att ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Kvistgård, Denmark

Koldinghus Castle

Koldinghus Castle was founded in the 13th century and was expanded since with many functions ranging from fortress, royal residency, ruin, museum, and the location of numerous wartime negotiations. The castle was originally founded by Christoffer I in 1268 but the oldest remaining part of buildings is the north side facing the castle lake originally built by king Christoffer III (1441–1448). The western side was lat ...
Founded: 15th century | Location: Kolding, Denmark

Silkeborg Castle Ruins

The first Silkeborg Castle, a primitive wooden building surrounded by palisades, was built in 1385. It was later replaced by a stone building, and again in the early 16th century by a main building in stone, a courtyard and a stable yard. Silkeborg Castle received royal visits on several occasions. Both Frederik II and Christian IV were regular overnight guests in the main building “Det Store Stenhus” (the gre ...
Founded: 1385 | Location: Silkeborg, Denmark

Tranekær Castle

Tranekær Castle was originally erected as a defensive fortress in the 13th century. The oldest part is the north wing, which dates back to about 1200. The 3m thick walls were added in the 14th century. The castle has been remodelled many times and today has two wings and an octagonal stair tower with a tall spire. It has belonged to the Ahlefeldt-Laurvig family for about 350 years. There is no admittance to the cast ...
Founded: c. 1200 | Location: Tranekær, Denmark

Spøttrup Castle

Spøttrup Castle is the best preserved medieval castles in Denmark. The first record of the castle dates from 1404 when it was moved to the possession of Viborg bishop. Bishops built the castle in the 1400s and it was restored in 1525. It consisted of square form castle and two surrounding moats with a drawbridge. Skipper Clement, leader of the peasant rebellion, attacked to the castle during the so-called Count&qu ...
Founded: 15th century | Location: Spøttrup, Denmark

Vordingborg Castle Ruins

The Vordingborg castle was built in 1175 by King King Valdemar I as a defensive castle and as a base from which to launch raids against the German coast. His half-brother built another castle in a remote location, which is now Copenhagen. King Valdemar II similarly used the castle for expansion into the Baltic, and in 1241 it was where he created the reformed legal system, the Law of Jutland. By the time of King Valdemar ...
Founded: 1175 | Location: Vordingborg, Denmark

Brarup Church

Brarup Church is an annex to Kippinge Church as it has been since before the Reformation. There is little information about ownership in the Middle Ages apart from the fact that the Crown had calling rights for the appointment of clergy. In 1585, the church owned factories and land strips on three farms. After the Reformation, the church was owned by the Crown until it was auctioned into private ownership in 1767 but by 1 ...
Founded: c. 1200 | Location: Nørre Alslev, Denmark

Brundlund Castle

Brundlund Castle was build 1411 by Queen Margareth I. It was used as the residence of the county prefect for several hundred years and it helped strengthening the position of the crown in Southern Jutland. The castle has been rebuilt a number of times, most recently in 1805-1807 and has fully restored in 1985. In 1998 it opened as an art museum cointaining Danish art from the 18th century to the present. Brundlund Castle ...
Founded: 1411 | Location: Åbenrå, Denmark

Gammel Estrup Manor

Gammel Estrup Manor as we know it today was built in 1490, but excavations have revealed evidence of earlier constructions also mentioned in texts under the name Essendrup dating back to 1340. The construction of Gammel Estrup was started by the contentious Lave Brock. But it was his great-grandson, Eske Brock who most people today think of in connection with the manor. Eske Brock was a nobleman and close friend of King ...
Founded: 1490 | Location: Auning, Denmark

Hald Castle Ruin

Hald Castle was built in 1528 by the bishop Jørgen Friis, who was the last Roman Catholic bishop of Viborg. It is said that Friis was one of the first prisons in Hald tower after the Reformation. The castle was left to decay and in the 1700s it was abandoned. Anyway in late 1800s the owned Christopher Krabbe reconstructed the tower which is today the most visible part of the former castle. Today castle ruins are op ...
Founded: 1528 | Location: Viborg, Denmark

Kalø Castle Ruins

Kalø Castle was founded in 1313 by the Danish king Erik Menved in order to establish a stronghold in northern Jutland to counter the ongoing rebellions by the local nobility and peasants against the crown. The castle was successful and from the 15th century and onwards the castle had a more peaceful role as the local administrative center. King Christian II held the future Swedish king Gustav Vasa captive at Kalø during ...
Founded: 1313 | Location: Rønde, Denmark

Aalholm Castle

Aalholm Castle is the oldest castle on the Lolland island, first mentioned in the 1329. The castle was initially the seat of the king"s vassal or lensmand, and thus the centre of local government. It is not known when the castle was founded, but for historical reasons, it was probably around 1200. During this period, a number of royal castles were built across the country to strengthen the king"s power in the re ...
Founded: 1300-1585 | Location: Nysted, Denmark

Gjorslev Castle

Gjorslev is a cruciform medieval castle, originally owned by the Bishop of Roskilde. It is considered one of the most well-preserved examples of Gothic secular architecture in Denmark. Gjorslev was built in about 1400 by Peder Jensen Lodehat, Bishop of Roskilde. It remained in the possession of the Roskilde bishops until the Reformation which led to its confiscation in 1637. It was sold in 1540 and was then in the possess ...
Founded: c. 1400 | Location: Store Heddinge, Denmark

Borreby Castle

Borreby Castle is a late-medieval fortified manor house. First mentioned in 1345, by the end of the century Borreby had come into the possession of the Urne family, an important house of high nobility in Denmark at that time. In 1410 the estate was acquired by Bishop Peder Jensen Lodehat and it was then held by theBishops of Roskilde until its confiscation by the Crown in 1536 in connection with the Reformation in 1534. ...
Founded: 1456 | Location: Skælskør, Denmark

Asserbo Castle Ruins

Asserbo Castle was founded by Bishop Absalon in the 1100s as a monastery for monks of the Carthusian Order. The castle was taken over first by the King around 1560 and in subsequent centuries by drifting sand. The castle was liberated from the sand in two phases: initially by King Frederik VII in 1849 and then by National Museum excavations in 1972.
Founded: 12th century | Location: Frederiksværk, Denmark

Søborg Castle Ruins

Søborg Castle, in its heyday, was the strongest castle in Denmark, and was also used as a prison. It was inhabited until the Count"s Feud in 1535, when it is speculated that it was destroyed. In 1577, the feudal tenant was granted permission to use the ruins as a quarry. Søborg Castle is first known from the 12th century, when ownership of the castle passed from the king to the bishop of Roskilde. Trad ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Gilleleje, Denmark

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Monastery of São Vicente de Fora

Monastery of São Vicente de Fora (Monastery of St. Vincent Outside the Walls) is a 17th-century church and monastery in the city of Lisbon. It is one of the most important monasteries and mannerist buildings in the country. The monastery also contains the royal pantheon of the Braganza monarchs of Portugal.

The original Monastery of São Vicente de Fora was founded around 1147 by the first Portuguese King, Afonso Henriques, for the Augustinian Order. The Monastery, built in Romanesque style outside the city walls, was one of the most important monastic foundations in mediaeval Portugal. It is dedicated to Saint Vincent of Saragossa, patron saint of Lisbon, whose relics were brought from the Algarve to Lisbon in the 12th century.

The present buildings are the result of a reconstruction ordered by King Philip II of Spain, who had become King of Portugal (as Philip I) after a succession crisis in 1580. The church of the monastery was built between 1582 and 1629, while other monastery buildings were finished only in the 18th century. The author of the design of the church is thought to be the Italian Jesuit Filippo Terzi and/or the Spaniard Juan de Herrera. The plans were followed and modified by Leonardo Turriano, Baltazar Álvares, Pedro Nunes Tinoco and João Nunes Tinoco.

The church of the Monastery has a majestic, austere façade that follows the later Renaissance style known as Mannerism. The façade, attributed to Baltazar Álvares, has several niches with statues of saints and is flanked by two towers (a model that would become widespread in Portugal). The lower part of the façade has three arches that lead to the galilee (entrance hall). The floorplan of the church reveals a Latin cross building with a one-aisled nave with lateral chapels. The church is covered by barrel vaulting and has a huge dome over the crossing. The general design of the church interior follows that of the prototypic church of Il Gesù, in Rome.

The beautiful main altarpiece is a Baroque work of the 18th century by one of the best Portuguese sculptors, Joaquim Machado de Castro. The altarpiece has the shape of a baldachin and is decorated with a large number of statues. The church also boasts several fine altarpieces in the lateral chapels.

The Monastery buildings are reached through a magnificent baroque portal, located beside the church façade. Inside, the entrance is decorated with blue-white 18th century tiles that tell the history of the Monastery, including scenes of the Siege of Lisbon in 1147. The ceiling of the room has an illusionistic painting executed in 1710 by the Italian Vincenzo Baccarelli. The sacristy of the Monastery is exuberantly decorated with polychromed marble and painting. The cloisters are also notable for the 18th century tiles that recount fables of La Fontaine, among other themes.

In 1834, after the religious orders were dissolved in Portugal, the monastery was transformed into a palace for the archbishops of Lisbon. Some decades later, King Ferdinand II transformed the monks' old refectory into a pantheon for the kings of the House of Braganza. Their tombs were transferred from the main chapel to this room.