Egeskov Castle is Europe"s best preserved Renaissance water castle with a history dating to the 14th century. The castle structure was erected by Frands Brockenhuus in 1554. Due to the troubles caused by the civil war known as the Count"s Feud, general civil unrest, and a civil war introducing the Protestant Reformation, most Danish noblemen built their homes as fortifications. The castle is constructed on oaken piles and located in a small lake with a maximum depth of 5 metres. Originally, the only access was by means of a drawbridge. According to legend, it took an entire forest of oak trees to build the foundation, hence the name Egeskov (“oak forest”).
The castle consists of two long buildings connected by a thick double wall, allowing defenders to abandon one house and continue fighting from the other. The double wall is over one meter thick and contains secret staircases and a well. Defenders were able to attack an enemy"s flanks from the two round corner towers. Other medieval defences include artillery ports, scalding holes and arrow slits. The bricks composing the castle are of an oversized medieval type sometimes called 'monks bricks'. The conical towers are constructed in a series of separate panels.
The architecture includes depressed and round-arched windows, round-arched blank arcading within the gables, and a double string course between the high cellar and the ground floor. The structure contains some of the early indoor plumbing design first used in Europe with vertical shafts for waste. The thick double wall also contains a water well which is accessed from the servants kitchen in the east house. Several of the large rooms have massive parallel exposed beams with some end carving.
Contents of the castle include a massive iron chest from at least as early as the 16th century, which derived from Hvedholm Castle, a property earlier owned by the Egeskov estate about ten kilometers to the west.
Numerous oil paintings are found within the castle including a large painting in the great hall on the first floor of Niels Juel, who defeated the Swedish force in the Battle of Køge Bay in the year 1677.
Other buildings belonging to Egeskov include Ladegården, a thatched half-timbered building which is now part of the museum. Other buildings are used by the museum and for farming. Surrounding the castle is an old park, covering 20 hectares of land. The park is divided into a number of gardens. The renaissance garden features fountains, a gravel path and topiary figures. The fuchsia garden, one of the largest in Europe, contains 104 different species. Other gardens near the castle include an English garden, a water garden, an herb garden, a vegetable garden, and a peasant"s garden (bondehave). The gardens also feature four hedge mazes. The oldest is a beech maze several hundreds of years old. This garden is trimmed every year to prevent the trees from dying. The newest maze is the world"s largest bamboo maze. It features a Chinese tower in the centre, and a bridge from the tower provides the exit from the maze. The parks feature a three-meter-tall sundial designed by Danish poet and mathematician, Piet Hein.
The estate includes an additional eight square kilometres; 2.5 square kilometres is forest, with the rest being farmland. The estate has belonged to the Ahlefeldt-Laurvig-Bille family since 1784. In 1986, a full-sized replica of the castle was built in Hokkaidō, Japan, to hold anaquarium. This was constructed with the permission of the Egeskov"s owners at the time, Count Claus and Countess Louisa Ahlefeldt-Laurvig-Bille.
Egeskov is today a home to the several museums, like vintage automobile, motorcycle and flying vehicles collection. Most of the castle is open to the public, except for the areas used by Count Michael and Countess Caroline Ahlefeldt-Laurvig-Bille. The museum of agriculture and the horse wagon collection is located in the building Ladegård mentioned previously.References:
From 1239, Raynaud, the Bishop of Quimper, decided on the building of a new chancel destined to replace that of the Romanesque era. He therefore started, in the far west, the construction of a great Gothic cathedral which would inspire cathedral reconstructions in the Ile de France and would in turn become a place of experimentation from where would later appear ideas adopted by the whole of lower Brittany. The date of 1239 marks the Bishop’s decision and does not imply an immediate start to construction. Observation of the pillar profiles, their bases, the canopies, the fitting of the ribbed vaults of the ambulatory or the alignment of the bays leads us to believe, however, that the construction was spread out over time.
The four circular pillars mark the start of the building site, but the four following adopt a lozenge-shaped layout which could indicate a change of project manager. The clumsiness of the vaulted archways of the north ambulatory, the start of the ribbed vaults at the height of the south ambulatory or the choice of the vaults descending in spoke-form from the semi-circle which allows the connection of the axis chapel to the choir – despite the manifest problems of alignment – conveys the hesitancy and diverse influences in the first phase of works which spread out until the start of the 14th century.
At the same time as this facade was built (to which were added the north and south gates) the building of the nave started in the east and would finish by 1460. The nave is made up of six bays with one at the level of the facade towers and flanked by double aisles – one wide and one narrow (split into side chapels) – in an extension of the choir arrangements.
The choir presents four right-hand bays with ambulatory and side chapels. It is extended towards the east of 3-sided chevet which opens onto a semi-circle composed of five chapels and an apsidal chapel of two bays and a flat chevet consecrated to Our Lady.
The three-level elevation with arches, triforium and galleries seems more uniform and expresses anglo-Norman influence in the thickness of the walls (Norman passageway at the gallery level) or the decorative style (heavy mouldings, decorative frieze under the triforium). This building site would have to have been overseen in one shot. Undoubtedly interrupted by the war of Succession (1341-1364) it draws to a close with the building of the lierne vaults (1410) and the fitting of stained-glass windows. Bishop Bertrand de Rosmadec and Duke Jean V, whose coat of arms would decorate these vaults, finished the chancel before starting on the building of the facade and the nave.
Isolated from its environment in the 19th century, the cathedral was – on the contrary – originally very linked to its surroundings. Its site and the orientation of the facade determined traffic flow in the town. Its positioning close to the south walls resulted in particuliarities such as the transfer of the side gates on to the north and south facades of the towers: the southern portal of Saint Catherine served the bishop’s gate and the hospital located on the left bank (the current Préfecture) and the north gate was the baptismal porch – a true parish porch with its benches and alcoves for the Apostles’ statues turned towards the town, completed by an ossuary (1514).
The west porch finds its natural place between the two towers. The entire aesthetic of these three gates springs from the Flamboyant era: trefoil, curly kale, finials, large gables which cut into the mouldings and balustrades. Pinnacles and recesses embellish the buttresses whilst an entire bestiary appears: monsters, dogs, mysterious figures, gargoyles, and with them a whole imaginary world promoting a religious and political programme. Even though most of the saints statues have disappeared an armorial survives which makes the doors of the cathedral one of the most beautiful heraldic pages imaginable: ducal ermine, the Montfort lion, Duchess Jeanne of France’s coat of arms side by side with the arms of the Cornouaille barons with their helmets and crests. One can imagine the impact of this sculpted decor with the colour and gilding which originally completed it.
At the start of the 16th century the construction of the spires was being prepared when building was interrupted, undoubtedly for financial reasons. Small conical roofs were therefore placed on top of the towers. The following centuries were essentially devoted to putting furnishings in place (funeral monuments, altars, statues, organs, pulpit). Note the fire which destroyed the spire of the transept cross in 1620 as well as the ransacking of the cathedral in 1793 when nearly all the furnishings disappeared in a « bonfire of the saints ».
The 19th century would therefore inherit an almost finished but mutilated building and would devote itself to its renovation according to the tastes and theories of the day.