Koldinghus Castle was founded in the 13th century and was expanded since with many functions ranging from fortress, royal residency, ruin, museum, and the location of numerous wartime negotiations. The castle was originally founded by Christoffer I in 1268 but the oldest remaining part of buildings is the north side facing the castle lake originally built by king Christoffer III (1441–1448). The western side was later built by king Christian I (1448–1481). King Christian III built the south side and the small towers in the courtyard.
In the 16th century cannons became more frequent tools of war and thick walled fortresses like Koldinghus partly lost their defensive significance. For this reason king Christian III added several buildings to the fortress and eventually turned it into a royal residence instead. The new residence became popular among the royal family and Prince Frederick, the heir apparent, grew up at Koldinghus. Christian III sometimes held court at the castle and it was here on 1 January 1559 that he died. When Christian IVbecame king in 1588 he choose to expand it further with the addition of the “Giant tower”. The tower was so named because of the 4 statues of giants from the Greek and Roman mythology (Hannibal, Hector, Scipio and Hercules) which adorned it. Today, the only statue on the tower is that of Hercules, since Hannibal and Hector were crushed during the 1808 fire and in a storm in 1854, Scipio fell to the ground.
Over the course of time Copenhagen became the focal point of the political power and the outlying local royal residences were used less and less frequently. When Frederik IV became king he decided to remove most of the remaining surrounding walls leaving Koldinghus as it can be seen today.
During the Napoleonic wars in 1808 Denmark had allied herself with France and Spain against among others Sweden and England. It was decided that 30.000 French and Spanish soldiers were to be stationed in Denmark to assist in a campaign to recuperate the Scanian lands lost to Sweden 150 years earlier. The Spanish soldiers arrived during the winter of 1808 and were quartered at Koldinghus under the supervision of their French commander Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte (later to become king of Sweden and Norway). The Scandinavian climate typically being somewhat colder than that of Spain and France reportedly resulted in much activity around the furnaces and stoves to the extent of even furniture being set alight. This combined with the unusually large number of people concentrated in the castle may have been contributing factors to the fire which erupted in the early hours of a winter night.
The danger of a fire had been anticipated and fire guards had been posted to patrol the castle throughout the nights. However, one was ill and had not reported that he stayed home and the other had left his post for some hours. In any event, the fire was discovered all too late to salvage the main buildings. Only the “Giant tower” remained untouched by the flames.
The ongoing events in the Napoleonic wars were not favourable to the kingdom and funds remained too tight to immediately warrant a reconstruction of the castle. It remained a ruin for several decades to come and over time became a popular landmark visited by among others HC Andersen. It was eventually decided to restore the old castle and in 1991 it was completed.
Today the restored castle functions as a museum containing collections of furniture from the 16th century to present, Roman and Gothic church culture, older Danish paintings, crafts focused on ceramics and silver and shifting thematized exhibitions.References:
Varberg Fortress was built in 1287-1300 by count Jacob Nielsen as protection against his Danish king, who had declared him an outlaw after the murder of King Eric V of Denmark. Jacob had close connections with king Eric II of Norway and as a result got substantial Norwegian assistance with the construction. The fortress, as well as half the county, became Norwegian in 1305.
King Eric's grand daughter, Ingeborg Håkansdotter, inherited the area from her father, King Haakon V of Norway. She and her husband, Eric, Duke of Södermanland, established a semi-independent state out of their Norwegian, Swedish and Danish counties until the death of Erik. They spent considerable time at the fortress. Their son, King Magnus IV of Sweden (Magnus VII of Norway), spent much time at the fortress as well.
The fortress was augmented during the late 16th and early 17th century on order by King Christian IV of Denmark. However, after the Treaty of Brömsebro in 1645 the fortress became Swedish. It was used as a military installation until 1830 and as a prison from the end of the 17th Century until 1931.
It is currently used as a museum and bed and breakfast as well as private accommodation. The moat of the fortress is said to be inhabited by a small lake monster. In August 2006, a couple of witnesses claimed to have seen the monster emerge from the dark water and devour a duck. The creature is described as brown, hairless and with a 40 cm long tail.