Vallø traces its history back to the 14th century. From 1554 to 1651 it was divided into two separate estates, West Vallø and East Vallø. In 1708 Vallø was acquired by King Frederick IV who passed it on to Anne Sophie Reventlow. In 1731 King Christian VI passed the property on to Queen Sophia Magdalene who in 1737 founded the Noble Vallø Foundation for unmarried daughters.
Vallø consists of four wings with robust towers and is surrounded by a moat. The south wing, with its robust corner towers, and the south end of the west wing were built from 1580 to 1586 by Mette Rosenkrantz, one of the richest women in Denmark of her day. In Christen Skeel's time of ownership, from 1638 to 1659, the castle was expanded to three storeys and the west wing extended. The north wing was built by Johan Cornelius Krieger in 1721. A three-winged building designed by Lauritz de Thurah was built in the courtyard from 1735 to 1738. The surviving central wing expanded with an extra storey by Georg David Anthon in 1765. The castle was devastated by fire in 1893 but restored largely to its old design by Hans Jørgen Holm between 1893 and 1904.
The park was turned into a Romantic landscape garden in 1830 but retains elements from the former French gardens from the 1720s. I large flower park was founded in 1960 but it has later been disbanded. Next to castle and its park there is a cluster of historic houses arranged around a street known as Vallø Castle Street (Vallø Slotsgade). Vallø Castle Inn received a royal privilege in 1784. The estate also owns a variety of other houses spread out across the surrounding countryside.
The estate is still owned by the Vallø Foundation (da. Vallø Stift) and covers 4,109 hectares of land of which 1,860 hectares are woodlands. Apart from agriculture and forestry, the revenues derive from house rental, the inn, a campground located close to Køge, and hiring-out of hunting areas. The castle still provides housing for women of the Danish nobility but since 1976 admission to the residences is not restricted to unmarried women but now also cover widows and divorced women.References:
The Abbey of Saint-Etienne, also known as Abbaye aux Hommes ('Men"s Abbey'), is a former monastery dedicated to Saint Stephen (Saint Étienne). It is considered, along with the neighbouring Abbaye aux Dames ('Ladies" Abbey'), to be one of the most notable Romanesque buildings in Normandy. Like all the major abbeys in Normandy, it was Benedictine.
Lanfranc, before being an Archbishop of Canterbury, was abbot of Saint-Etienne. Built in Caen stone during the 11th century, the two semi-completed churches stood for many decades in competition. An important feature added to both churches in about 1120 was the ribbed vault, used for the first time in France. The two abbey churches are considered forerunners of the Gothic architecture. The original Romanesque apse was replaced in 1166 by an early Gothic chevet, complete with rosette windows and flying buttresses. Nine towers and spires were added in the 13th century. The interior vaulting shows a similar progression, beginning with early sexpartite vaulting (using circular ribs) in the nave and progressing to quadipartite vaults (using pointed ribs) in the sanctuary.
The two monasteries were finally donated by William the Conqueror and his wife, Matilda of Flanders, as penalty for their marriage against the Pope"s ruling. William was buried here; Matilda was buried in the Abbaye aux Dames. Unfortunately William"s original tombstone of black marble, the same kind as Matilda"s in the Abbaye aux Dames, was destroyed by the Calvinist iconoclasts in the 16th century and his bones scattered.
As a consequence of the Wars of Religion, the high lantern tower in the middle of the church collapsed and was never rebuilt. The Benedictine abbey was suppressed during the French Revolution and the abbey church became a parish church. From 1804 to 1961, the abbey buildings accommodated a prestigious high school, the Lycée Malherbe. During the Normandy Landings in 1944, inhabitants of Caen found refuge in the church; on the rooftop there was a red cross, made with blood on a sheet, to show that it was a hospital (to avoid bombings).