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.References:
The moated castle at Beersel is one of the few exceptionally well-preserved examples of medieval fortifications in Belgium. It remains pretty much as it must have appeared in the 15th century. Remarkably, it was never converted into a fortified mansion. A visitor is able to experience at first-hand how it must have felt to live in a heavily fortified castle in the Middle Ages.
The castle was built in around 1420 as a means of defence on the outer reaches of Brussels. The tall, dense walls and towers were intended to hold any besiegers at bay. The moat and the marshy ground along its eastern, southern and western edges made any attack a formidable proposition. For that reason, any attackers would have chosen its weaker northern defences where the castle adjoins higher lying ground. But the castle was only taken and destroyed on one occasion in 1489, by the inhabitants of Brussels who were in rebellion against Maximilian of Austria.
After being stormed and plundered by the rebels it was partially rebuilt. The pointed roofs and stepped gables are features which have survived this period. The reconstruction explains why two periods can be identified in the fabric of the edifice, particularly on the outside.
The red Brabant sandstone surrounds of the embrasures, now more or less all bricked up, are characteristic of the 15th century. The other embrasures, edged with white sandstone, date from the end of the 15th century. They were intended for setting up the artillery fire. The merlons too are in white sandstone. The year 1617 can be clearly seen in the foundation support on the first tower. This refers to restorations carried out at the time by the Arenberg family.
Nowadays, the castle is dominated by three massive towers. The means of defence follow the classic pattern: a wide, deep moat surrounding the castle, a drawbridge, merlons on the towers, embrasures in the walls and in the towers, at more or less regular intervals, and machiolations. Circular, projecting towers ensured that attacks from the side could be thwarted. If the enemy were to penetrate the outer wall, each tower could be defended from embrasures facing onto the inner courtyard.
The second and third towers are flanked by watchtowers from which shots could be fired directly below. Between the second and third tower are two openings in the walkway on the wall. It is not clear what these were used for. Were these holes used for the disposing of rubbish, or escape routes. The windows on the exterior are narrow and low. All light entering comes from the interior. The few larger windows on the exterior date from a later period. It is most probable that the third tower - the highest - was used as a watchtower.