Monasteries in Sweden

St. Peter's Priory

St. Peter's Priory (Sankt Peters Klosters kyrka) was one of Denmark's early monastic houses. It was established before 1166 during the tenure of Eskil, Archbishop of Lund, for Benedictine nuns. It was originally dedicated to Saint Mary and Saint Peter, but by 1200 it was simply referred to as St. Peter's Priory. The original church was built in the latter half of the 1160s of sandstone with the rounded arches of the Roman ...
Founded: 1160s | Location: Lund, Sweden

Mariefred Charterhouse Ruins

Mariefred Charterhouse, sometimes referred to as Gripsholm Charterhouse, was a Carthusian monastery, or charterhouse. It was the only Carthusian monastery in Scandinavia, and one of the last monasteries established in Sweden before the Reformation. The establishment of a Carthusian monastery in Sweden was brought about by the efforts of Jakob Ulvsson, Archbishop of Uppsala, and Kort Rogge, Bishop of Strängnäs, ...
Founded: 1493 | Location: Mariefred, Sweden

Ystad Abbey

Ystad Abbey was inaugurated in 1267 by the Fransiscan Order. Along Vadstena it is the best preserved medieval abbey in Sweden. Dissolved at the Reformation, the Abbey was handed over to the towns people and soon fell into disrepair. The eastern part and gatekeeper’s house has survived to present days.. In 1912 it became home to the local museum, which holds changing temporary exhibitions in a wing of the abbey and ...
Founded: 1267 | Location: Ystad, Sweden

Vadstena Abbey

The Abbey of Our Lady and of St. Bridget, more commonly referred to as Vadstena Abbey, was the motherhouse of the Bridgettine Order. The abbey started on one of the farms donated to it by the king, but the town of Vadstena grew up around it. The abbey was founded in 1346 by Saint Bridget with the assistance of King Magnus IV of Sweden and his Queen Blanche of Namur, who made a will donating ten farms to the abbey founded ...
Founded: 1346 | Location: Vadstena, Sweden

Solberga Abbey Ruins

Solberga Abbey was a Cistercian nunnery in operation from 1246 until at least 1469. It was located outside Visby on Gotland until 1404, and then in Visby. It was the only nunnery ot the island of Gotland. Solberga Abbey was likely a daughter convent of Vreta Abbey. On 12 August 1246, Bishop Laurentius of Linköping mentions that the first nuns had been sent to Gotland, were Solberga was the only nunnery on the isla ...
Founded: 1246 | Location: Visby, Sweden

Roma Abbey Ruins

Roma Abbey was built in 1164 by Cistercian monks. The monks established a religious and agricultural centre for the entire Baltic Sea region. After the Reformation in the early 16th century, the monastery was abandoned. It was then under the Danish Crown. The monastery building was partly demolished and the church was used as a stable. In 1645, through the peace treaty in Brömsebro, Gotland became Swedish again. In ...
Founded: 1164 | Location: Romakloster, Sweden

Varnhem Abbey

Varnhem Abbey (Varnhems kloster) was founded around 1150 by monks of the Cistercian Order from Alvastra Abbey in Östergötland. The Cistercian Order used the same floor plan for all its abbeys, which makes it possible to easily locate the different rooms and halls regardless of the building site. A wooden and a stone church were both erected on the site before the abbey was built. The stone church was erected in ...
Founded: ca. 1150 | Location: Varnhem, Sweden

Bosjökloster

Bosjökloster (Bosjö Abbey) was originally a nunnery, founded in 1080 by the Benedictine Order. The oldest preserved document that mentions Bosjö Abbey was written by Pope Lucius III in 1181, when he confirmed its privileges. According to local legend, the land was donated by Tord Thott, the first known ancestor of the Scanian noble family Thott. The abbey was transformed into a castle in the 16th century, a ...
Founded: 1080 | Location: Höör, Sweden

Alvastra Monastery Ruins

French monks of the influential Cistercian order founded Alvastra Monastery in 1143. From Clairvaux in France, the monks brought modern methods of administration, technology and architecture to the province of Östergötland in Sweden. Alvastra Monastery is a distinct part of Östergötland's cultural landscape, and is open for visitors to follow the monks' medieval trail. The district around Alvastra pla ...
Founded: 1143 | Location: Ödeshög, Sweden

Vreta Abbey

Vreta Abbey was the first nunnery in Sweden, initially Benedictine and later Cistercian, and one of the oldest in Scandinavia. The exact year of the foundation is not known. The abbey was founded by King Inge the Elder of Sweden and Queen Helena on the orders of Pope Paschal II, which gives a date range for the foundation: Paschal became pope in 1099; the date of Inge"s death is disputed, but probably occurred around ...
Founded: ca. 1100 | Location: Vreta Kloster, Sweden

Gudhem Abbey Ruins

Gudhem Abbey, (Gudhems kloster), in operation from 1152 to 1529, was a nunnery in Sweden, initially Benedictine and later Cistercian. It is considered to have been one of the oldest convents in Sweden, after Vreta Abbey (1100) and Alvastra Abbey (1143). Gudhem, a name signifying "Home of the Gods", was according to tradition a holy place of worship already before Christianity. According to the saga, one hundred images of ...
Founded: 1152 | Location: Falköping, Sweden

Enköping Monastery Ruins

The Franciscan Monastery in Enköping was built during the 1200s, probably around 1250. The founder is alleged to have been a Peter Olai from Roskilde. In a letter to the monastery from 1275 Master Palne asks to be buried there, when his wife is already buried in the monastery. For this, he promises a large sum of money, a boat and a tent as gifts to the monastery. The monastery was reconstructed several times during ...
Founded: ca. 1250 | Location: Enköping, Sweden

Nydala Abbey

Nydala Abbey was a medieval Cistercian monastery. Nydala (from Swedish ny, meaning new, and dal, meaning valley) was called Sancta Maria de Nova Valle or just Nova Vallis in Latin. It was founded together with Alvastra Abbey in 1147 as the first cistercian monasteries in Sweden. King Gustavus Vasa appropriated the abbey in the 1520s, and the Danes sacked it in 1568. Part of the abbey church was rebuilt in ...
Founded: 1147 | Location: Vrigstad, Sweden

Julita Manor

Julita Manor and open-air museum is located at the site of former Cistercian Julita abbey. The monastery was originally founded in 1160 at Viby, close to Sigtuna, but under the patronage of King Knut Eriksson, who donated land and a right to parts of the fishing at Älvkarleby, it was moved in 1180 to Säby by the lake Öljaren in Julita. The monastery was therefore also known as Säby, or Saba in Latin. I ...
Founded: | Location: Katrineholm, Sweden

Dragsmark Abbey Ruins

Dragsmark Abbey was a Premonstratensian canonry, also known as Marieskog in Norwegian. It was founded before 1260, with the support of King Håkon Håkonsson, and was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The abbey was very wealthy in its heyday and ran a prestigious school, but declined during the 15th century, and as early as 1519 was in the control of a lay administrator, the first monastery in Norway to be s ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Uddevalla, Sweden

Ramundeboda Abbey Ruins

Ramundeboda Abbey belonged to the Hospital Brothers of St. Anthony and was established in the late 1400s. This was the only Antonines monastery in Sweden. After Reformation abbey"s properties were seized in 1527. After that there was an inn until 1800s and the Ramundeboda Church between 1686-1688. The church was moved to Laxå in 1899.
Founded: c. 1475 | Location: Finnerödja, Sweden

Gudsberga Abbey Ruins

Gudsberga Abbey (Gudsberga Kloster) was a Cistercian abbey established in 1486. It was the last Cistercian abbey in Sweden. Gudsberga owned farms, manors, foundries and mines until 1527, when it was reduced to the Crown during Reformation. In 1538 and 1544 King Gustav Vasa ordered to send silver from abbey to Stockholm. It was demolished later. Today some stone foundations remain and there is a museum exhibiting the forg ...
Founded: 1486 | Location: Hedemora, Sweden

Herrevad Abbey

Herrevad Abbey was founded from Cîteaux Abbey in 1144 as Denmark's first Cistercian monastery with the support of Archbishop Eskil of Lund. The original name, Herivad, meant the "army ford", referring to a ford over the Rønne River. After the construction of the abbey it became known as Herrevad, or "the Lord's ford", most likely because of the fee payable to the abbey for using the ford, and later the bridge ...
Founded: 1144 | Location: Ljungbyhed, Sweden

Riseberga Abbey Ruins

Riseberga Abbey was a nunnery founded by the Order of Cistercians around the year 1180. The land property of the abbey was donated by Earl Birger Brosa in 1202. After his death Brosa’s wife, Queen consort Brigida Haraldsdotter, moved to Riseberga and she was one of the most famous nuns in the abbey. Brigida has also buried there. Riseberga became soon very rich and powerful abbey. In the 13th century it owned 224 f ...
Founded: ca. 1180 | Location: Fjugesta, Sweden

Börringekloster Castle

Börringekloster Castle, formerly Börringe Priory, is a castle built in 1763 on the ruins of a medieval Benedictine priory. The priory was founded about 1150 under Eskil, Archbishop of Lund, for Benedictine monks. However, by 1231 Börringe Priory is mentioned in Liber Census Daniae as a nunnery located on the island of Byrdingø in Börringe Lake, on land which Valdemar II of Denmark had once set a ...
Founded: 1763 | Location: Börringe, Sweden

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte

The Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte is a baroque French château built between 1658-1661 for Nicolas Fouquet. It was made for Marquis de Belle Île, Viscount of Melun and Vaux, the superintendent of finances of Louis XIV, the château was an influential work of architecture in mid-17th century Europe. At Vaux-le-Vicomte, the architect Louis Le Vau, the landscape architect André le Nôtre, and the painter-decorator Charles Le Brun worked together on a large-scale project for the first time. Their collaboration marked the beginning of the 'Louis XIV style' combining architecture, interior design and landscape design. The garden's pronounced visual axis is an example of this style.

To secure the necessary grounds for the elaborate plans for Vaux-le-Vicomte’s garden and castle, Fouquet purchased and demolished three villages. The displaced villagers were then employed in the upkeep and maintenance of the gardens. It was said to have employed eighteen thousand workers and cost as much as 16 million livres. The château and its patron became for a short time a focus for fine feasts, literature and arts. The poet La Fontaine and the playwright Molière were among the artists close to Fouquet. At the inauguration of Vaux-le-Vicomte, a Molière play was performed, along with a dinner event organized by François Vatel, and an impressive firework show.

After Fouquet was arrested and imprisoned for life, and his wife exiled, Vaux-le-Vicomte was placed under sequestration. The king seized, confiscated or purchased 120 tapestries, the statues, and all the orange trees from Vaux-le-Vicomte. He then sent the team of artists (Le Vau, Le Nôtre and Le Brun) to design what would be a much larger project than Vaux-le-Vicomte, the palace and gardens of Versailles.

The Marshal Villars became the new owner without first seeing the chateau. In 1764, the Marshal's son sold the estate to the Duke of Praslin, whose descendants would maintain the property for over a century. It is sometimes mistakenly reported that the château was the scene of a murder in 1847, when duke Charles de Choiseul-Praslin, killed his wife in her bedroom, but this did not happen at Vaux-le-Vicomte but at the Paris residence of the Duke.

In 1875, after thirty years of neglect, the estate was sold to Alfred Sommier in a public auction. The château was empty, some of the outbuildings had fallen into ruin, and the famous gardens were totally overgrown. The huge task of restoration and refurbishment began under the direction of the architect Gabriel-Hippolyte Destailleur, assisted by the landscape architect Elie Lainé. When Sommier died in 1908, the château and the gardens had recovered their original appearance. His son, Edme Sommier, and his daughter-in-law completed the task. Today, his descendants continue to preserve the château, which remains privately owned by Patrice and Cristina de Vogüé, the Count and Countess de Vogüé. It is now administered by their three sons Alexandre, Jean-Charles and Ascanio de Vogüé. Recognized by the state as a monument historique, it is open to the public regularly.

Architecture

The chateau is situated near the northern end of a 1.5-km long north-south axis with the entrance front facing north. Its elevations are perfectly symmetrical to either side of this axis. Somewhat surprisingly the interior plan is also nearly completely symmetrical with few differences between the eastern and western halves. The two rooms in the center, the entrance vestibule to the north and the oval salon to the south, were originally an open-air loggia, dividing the chateau into two distinct sections. The interior decoration of these two rooms was therefore more typical of an outdoor setting. Three sets of three arches, those on the entrance front, three more between the vestibule and the salon, and the three leading from the salon to the garden are all aligned and permitted the arriving visitor to see through to the central axis of the garden even before entering the chateau. The exterior arches could be closed with iron gates, and only later were they filled in with glass doors and the interior arches with mirrored doors. Since the loggia divided the building into two halves, there are two symmetrical staircases on either side of it, rather than a single staircase. The rooms in the eastern half of the house were intended for the use of the king, those in the western were for Fouquet. The provision of a suite of rooms for the king was normal practice in aristocratic houses of the time, since the king travelled frequently.

Another surprising feature of the plan is the thickness of the main body of the building (corps de logis), which consists of two rows of rooms running east and west. Traditionally the middle of the corps de logis of French chateaux consisted of a single row of rooms. Double-thick corps de logis had already been used in hôtels particuliers in Paris, including Le Vau's Hôtel Tambonneau, but Vaux was the first chateau to incorporate this change. Even more unusual, the main rooms are all on the ground floor rather than the first floor (the traditional piano nobile). This accounts for the lack of a grand staircase or a gallery, standard elements of most contemporary chateaux. Also noteworthy are corridors in the basement and on the first floor which run the length of house providing privacy to the rooms they access. Up to the middle of the 17th century, corridors were essentially unknown. Another feature of the plan, the four pavilions, one at each corner of the building, is more conventional.

Vaux-le-Vicomte was originally planned to be constructed in brick and stone, but after the mid-century, as the middle classes began to imitate this style, aristocratic circles began using stone exclusively. Rather late in the design process, Fouquet and Le Vau switched to stone, a decision that may have been influenced by the use of stone at François Mansart's Château de Maisons. The service buildings flanking the large avant-cour to the north of the house remained in brick and stone, and other structures preceding them were in rubble-stone and plaster, a social ranking of building materials that would be common in France for a considerable length of time thereafter.

The main chateau is constructed entirely on a moated platform, reached via two bridges, both aligned with the central axis and placed on the north and south sides. The moat is a picturesque holdover from medieval fortified residences, and is again a feature that Le Vau may have borrowed from Maisons. The moat at Vaux may also have been inspired by the previous chateau on the site, which Le Vau's work replaced.

Gardens

The château rises on an elevated platform in the middle of the woods and marks the border between unequal spaces, each treated in a different way. This effect is more distinctive today, as the woodlands are mature, than it was in the seventeenth century when the site had been farmland, and the plantations were new.

Le Nôtre's garden was the dominant structure of the great complex, stretching nearly a mile and a half (3 km), with a balanced composition of water basins and canals contained in stone curbs, fountains, gravel walks, and patterned parterres that remains more coherent than the vast display Le Nôtre was to create at Versailles.

Le Nôtre created a magnificent scene to be viewed from the house, using the laws of perspective. Le Notre used the natural terrain to his advantage. He placed the canal at the lowest part of the complex, thus hiding it from the main perspectival point of view. Past the canal, the garden ascends a large open lawn and ends with the Hercules column added in the 19th century. Shrubberies provided a picture frame to the garden that also served as a stage for royal fêtes.

From the top of the grand staircase, this gives the impression that the entire garden is revealed in one single glance. Initially, the view consists of symmetrical rows of shrubbery, avenues, fountains, statues, flowers and other pieces developed to imitate nature – these elements exemplify the Baroque desire to mold nature to fit its wishes, thus using nature to imitate nature. The centerpiece is a large reflecting pool flanked by grottos holding statues in their many niches. The grand sloping lawn is not visible until one begins to explore the garden, when the viewer is made aware of the optical elements involved and discovers that the garden is much larger than it looks.