Sofiero Castle was one of the Swedish royal family's country mansions. It was originally a Scanian farm called Skabelycke, bought in 1864 by Crown Prince Oscar of Sweden and his wife Sophia of Nassau. The first one-story palace was completed in 1865. It was expanded to its current size between 1874 and 1876, after crown prince Oscar had been crowned king Oscar II of Sweden and Norway.
In 1905, Oscar II's grandchild Prince Gustaf Adolf, future King Gustaf VI Adolf, and his wife, crown princess Margaret received the palace as a wedding gift. They renovated the palace and started the large Rhododendron garden for which the palace is known today. Prince Gustaf Adolf become king in 1950 and until 1973 Sofiero was his and his second wife Lady Louise Mountbatten's official summer residence. It was supposedly the King's favorite place and upon his death, which occurred in Helsingborg, he left Sofiero to the city of Helsingborg so that the general public could enjoy it as much as he had.
The main attraction today is the very large gardens with a wide range of local (and other) plant life, stretching to the shore of Oresund. The Rhododendrons are especially noteworthy, consisting of almost 500 different varieties. The park also holds a small collection of modern art. During the summer the large grass areas are sometimes used for large outdoor concerts with national as well as international stars. The castle itself is today used as restaurant, cafe and at times as a gallery.References:
The Abbey of Saint-Etienne, also known as Abbaye aux Hommes ('Men"s Abbey'), is a former monastery dedicated to Saint Stephen (Saint Étienne). It is considered, along with the neighbouring Abbaye aux Dames ('Ladies" Abbey'), to be one of the most notable Romanesque buildings in Normandy. Like all the major abbeys in Normandy, it was Benedictine.
Lanfranc, before being an Archbishop of Canterbury, was abbot of Saint-Etienne. Built in Caen stone during the 11th century, the two semi-completed churches stood for many decades in competition. An important feature added to both churches in about 1120 was the ribbed vault, used for the first time in France. The two abbey churches are considered forerunners of the Gothic architecture. The original Romanesque apse was replaced in 1166 by an early Gothic chevet, complete with rosette windows and flying buttresses. Nine towers and spires were added in the 13th century. The interior vaulting shows a similar progression, beginning with early sexpartite vaulting (using circular ribs) in the nave and progressing to quadipartite vaults (using pointed ribs) in the sanctuary.
The two monasteries were finally donated by William the Conqueror and his wife, Matilda of Flanders, as penalty for their marriage against the Pope"s ruling. William was buried here; Matilda was buried in the Abbaye aux Dames. Unfortunately William"s original tombstone of black marble, the same kind as Matilda"s in the Abbaye aux Dames, was destroyed by the Calvinist iconoclasts in the 16th century and his bones scattered.
As a consequence of the Wars of Religion, the high lantern tower in the middle of the church collapsed and was never rebuilt. The Benedictine abbey was suppressed during the French Revolution and the abbey church became a parish church. From 1804 to 1961, the abbey buildings accommodated a prestigious high school, the Lycée Malherbe. During the Normandy Landings in 1944, inhabitants of Caen found refuge in the church; on the rooftop there was a red cross, made with blood on a sheet, to show that it was a hospital (to avoid bombings).