Kronborg Castle is an outstanding example of the Renaissance castle, and one which played a highly significant role in the history of this region of northern Europe.

After he began to levy duty on ships passing through the Sound between Sjaelland and Scania around 1425, King Erik of Pomerania built a castle known as Krogen on the site occupied today by Kronborg. It was in 1574 that King Frederik II of Denmark used this site for the construction of his palace, to the designs of the architect Hans van Paeschen. It was given the name of Kronborg three years later, when the Flemish architect, Anthonis van Opbergen from Malines, was instructed to carry out a thorough restoration and enlargement of the palace. One of the new elements added at this time was a capacious banqueting hall, which was used for balls and theatrical performances.

On September 1629 Kronborg was devastated by fire, only the walls being left standing. Christian IV immediately commissioned the Surveyor General, Hans van Steenwinckel the Younger, to carry out the restoration of the castle, which largely conformed to its original appearance. Under Frederik III and Christian V large fortifications were built, the outer defensive works were considerably enlarged under Frederik IV, and the castle itself underwent substantial restoration and alteration. In 1785 it passed to the military. It has remained intact to the present day. It is world-renowned as Elsinore, the setting of Shakespeare's Hamlet.

The oldest part of Kronborg Castle consists of the two lower floors on the eastern end of the north wing, which formed part of Erik of Pomerania's Kroge castle. The medieval brickwork here extends well into the present-day third storey. Frederik II's palace was based on this relatively modest structure. The north wing was extended and joined to the old banqueting hall on the west, which was divided up to become the kitchen, brewhouse and guest chambers. To the south a medieval brick house was converted into an imposing royal chapel. The result was a three-sided complex of two-storey buildings; there appear to have been no buildings on the east side, overlooking the Sound, which was closed only by the earlier curtain wall.

With the king's abrupt change of plan in 1577, a magnificent banqueting hall was built on the south, joined to the north wing by a new three-storey suite of rooms with a regular courtyard facade. The lofty Trumpeter's Tower was added on the south side. At the same time a third storey was added to the buildings on the other three sides. Following the disastrous fire of 1629, the castle was reconstructed almost exactly as it had been before. The result is a Renaissance palace that reflects the piecemeal nature of its construction, with only the west wing having a facade designed as an integrated whole. The interior of the castle presents the same heterogeneity of style and layout as the exterior.

The chapel, which was the only building not to have been ravaged by fire in 1629, preserves its original altar, gallery and pews, with fine carvings and painted panels. The north wing, now a three-storey building faced with sandstone, has the royal apartments on its second storey. Although the layout of rooms is much as it was at the time of Frederik II, the decoration dates mainly from the 17th and 18th centuries. The top floor of the east wing was arranged as a long gallery in 1583, to enable the queen to reach the Banqueting Hall in the south wing.

The latter appears originally to have been divided into two levels at its east end, presumably providing a gallery, which has been removed. In its original form the Banqueting Hall had a magnificently carved and gilded ceiling and its walls were hung with tapestries. After the fire of 1629 it was rebuilt, to a greater height but less lavishly decorated. Only 14 of the tapestries, prepared for the north wall and depicting Danish kings, have survived; of these seven are on display at Kronborg, the remainder being in the National Museum in Copenhagen. Other important components of the Kronborg complex are the Little Hall in the west wing, the so-called 'Scottish Suite' in the west wing, and Frederik V's apartments on the top floor of the north wing.

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Details

Founded: 1574-1585
Category: Castles and fortifications in Denmark
Historical period: Early Modern Denmark (Denmark)

Rating

4.5/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Becky Gray (15 months ago)
Fantastic visit. Lots of information in Danish and English with QR codes to take you to audio guide sections for the different areas of the castle. There is a tour only on Saturday called 'In the footsteps of Hamlet' where an actor guides you around the castle telling the story of Hamlet', which made for a very interesting and engaging visit.
Sofia Close-Santos (15 months ago)
This is a very nice castle and a great place to visit if you want to know more about the history of Denmark. It does not cost much to go inside the castle and I recommend that you do. If you are travelling as a family the great thing is that children go in for free and there are activities for children inside like colouring.i give it a 5 star rating!
Mo Aljada (2 years ago)
Beautiful castle. Entry was inexpensive (little under $15 for adults and kids under 18 were free). You can tour the whole castle in about 2 hours and the grounds and surrounding area was very nice too. You can see Sweden across the strait so that was a plus also. I highly recommend it.
Dr Nicholas Exadaktylos (2 years ago)
Kronborg castle is one of the most important Renaissance castles in Northern Europe and has been added to UNESCO's World Heritage Sites list (2000). Very beautiful castle with a lot of history about the rivalry between Denmark and Sweden. Nice view of the straits between those two countries. A guided tour is highly recommended.
Pete Greg (2 years ago)
The staff are awesome! The castle is very nice but a bit bare compared with a lot of English castles I have visited. A great pity there is no guided tour or an audio guided tour. It's a pity there is some fantastic tapestry but only a little description in English. Which is OK as we are the visitors but an audio set up would open it up to the world for little cost. Still worth a visit if your in the area
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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.