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:
The Porta Nigra (Latin for black gate) is the largest Roman city gate north of the Alps. It is designated as part of the Roman Monuments, Cathedral of St. Peter and Church of Our Lady in Trier UNESCO World Heritage Site. The name Porta Nigra originated in the Middle Ages due to the darkened colour of its stone; the original Roman name has not been preserved. Locals commonly refer to the Porta Nigra simply as Porta.
The Porta Nigra was built in grey sandstone between 186 and 200 AD. The original gate consisted of two four-storied towers, projecting as near semicircles on the outer side. A narrow courtyard separated the two gate openings on either side. For unknown reasons, however, the construction of the gate remained unfinished. For example, the stones at the northern (outer) side of the gate were never abraded, and the protruding stones would have made it impossible to install movable gates. Nonetheless, the gate was used for several centuries until the end of the Roman era in Trier.
In Roman times, the Porta Nigra was part of a system of four city gates, one of which stood at each side of the roughly rectangular Roman city. The Porta Nigra guarded the northern entry to the Roman city, while the Porta Alba (White Gate) was built in the east, the Porta Media (Middle Gate) in the south, and the Porta Inclyta (Famous Gate) in the west, next to the Roman bridge across the Moselle. The gates stood at the ends of the two main streets of the Roman Trier, one of which led north-south and the other east-west. Of these gates, only the Porta Nigra still exists today.
In the early Middle Ages the Roman city gates were no longer used for their original function and their stones were taken and reused for other buildings. Also iron and lead braces were broken out of the walls of the Porta Nigra for reuse. Traces of this destruction are still clearly visible on the north side of the gate.
After 1028, the Greek monk Simeon lived as a hermit in the ruins of the Porta Nigra. After his death (1035) and sanctification, the Simeonstift monastery was built next to the Porta Nigra to honor him. Saving it from further destruction, the Porta Nigra was transformed into a church: The inner court of the gate was roofed and intermediate ceilings were inserted. The two middle storeys of the former gate were converted into church naves: the upper storey being for the monks and the lower storey for the general public. The ground floor with the large gates was sealed, and a large outside staircase was constructed alongside the south side (the town side) of the gate, up to the lower storey of the church. A small staircase led further up to the upper storey. The church rooms were accessible through former windows of the western tower of the Porta Nigra that were enlarged to become entrance doors (still visible today). The top floor of the western tower was used as church tower, the eastern tower was leveled, and an apse added at its east side. An additional gate - the much smaller Simeon Gate - was built adjacent to the East side of the Porta Nigra and served as a city gate in medieval times.
In 1802 Napoleon Bonaparte dissolved the church in the Porta Nigra and the monastery beside it, along with the vast majority of Trier"s numerous churches and monasteries. On his visit to Trier in 1804, Napoleon ordered that the Porta Nigra be converted back to its Roman form. Only the apse was kept; but the eastern tower was not rebuilt to its original height. Local legend has it that Napoleon originally wanted to completely tear down the church, but locals convinced him that the church had actually been a Gaulish festival hall before being turned into a church. Another version of the story is that they told him about its Roman origins, persuading him to convert the gate back to its original form.
In 1986 the Porta Nigra was designated a World Heritage Site, along with other Roman monuments in Trier and its surroundings. The modern appearance of the Porta Nigra goes back almost unchanged to the reconstruction ordered by Napoleon. At the south side of the Porta Nigra, remains of Roman columns line the last 100 m of the street leading to the gate. Positioned where they had stood in Roman times, they give a slight impression of the aspect of the original Roman street that was lined with colonnades. The Porta Nigra, including the upper floors, is open to visitors.