Medieval castles in 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 later b ...
Founded: 15th century | Location: Kolding, 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

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 Danish king a ...
Founded: 1350 | Location: Sønderborg, 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

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

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

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 castle it ...
Founded: c. 1200 | Location: Tranekær, 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

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

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

Bjørnkaer Castle Ruins

Bjørnkær is a 14th century castle mound consisting of two square castle embankments surrounded by a moat and an outer embankment. During excavations in the 1930s, the foundations of a small building were found on the eastern castle embankment. Inside, the building measures about 4.5 m x 6.5 m, and the remains of the entrance door can be seen in the west wall. The other walls have traces of windows. The remain ...
Founded: c. 1300 | Location: Odder, 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

Ravnsborg Castle Ruins

Ravnsborg Castle was built in around 1330 by John III, Count of Holstein-Plön. In 1347 the castle was conquered by Valdemar IV. It was demolished in 1510. The 100m long and 50m wide castle was originally on an island and fortified with brick walls.
Founded: 1330 | Location: Torrig, 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: Aabenraa, 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

Dronningholm Castle Ruins

Dronningholm Castle construction was started by Valdemar the Great (died in 1182) and completed around 1200 by Valdemar II of Denmark (Valdemar Victorious). It was a solid castle construction with moats and drawbridge. The castle was one of the largest in the country, but burned down in 1525. According to the legend queen Dagmar got the castle as a morning gift.
Founded: 12th century | Location: Frederiksværk, 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

Riberhus Castle Ruins

During excavations at Slotsbanken, proof was found that people had resided there in the 10th century. However, this may not have been in connection with a castle or other building, but historical sources indicate that a castle was situated here in the early 1200s. It was a royal castle with a bailiff, who looked after the King’s interests in the area, collecting taxes from the townsfolk. The bailiff, later called a ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Ribe, 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

Lilleborg Castle Ruins

Lilleborg is a ruined castle in the Almindingen forest. The castle was probably built in the middle of the 12th century as a royal fortress. It appears to have replaced the much larger fortress of Gamleborg which was only 700 metres away. The move could be explained by the fact that in 1149, three-fourths of Bornholm had been surrendered to Eskil, archbishop of Lund. As a result, King Sweyn III wanted to establish his own ...
Founded: c. 1149 | Location: Aakirkeby, 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.