The Trelleborg near Slagelse is one of the five of six Viking ring castles in Denmark. Similar to the other Viking ring castles found so far, the Trelleborg at Slagelse was designed as an exact circle with two roads that crossed at right angles in the geometric center and led to the four gates with two always opposite to each other. In each of the four quarters stood four almost identical longhouses arranged in a square. Unlike the others, the fortress was extended with a sort of bailey. The whole fortress may have supplied room for some 1,300 people.
The circular main castle was surrounded by a 5-meter-high rampart that was 17.5 meters wide at the base and had a diameter of 137 meters. The outer walling was made of oak. Two rows of poles were supported by slanted beams from the outside and the room in between the poles was filled with loam and stones. The inside was also clad with wood, the two facades were reinforced by beams connecting the two. In the east there was a 5-meter-broad berm protected by a ditch with a pointed profile, 17 meters wide and 4 meters deep. The ditch was not filled with water and had a palisade at its base. The two roads were covered with wood, and the four gates lined with stones on the inside. As in Fyrkat, there may have been a circle path along the inner side of the ramparts.
The 16 longhouses were arranged in four squares 29.42 meters long each and had a somewhat ship-like form, the long walls bulging outwards. Each house was divided into three rooms with a large central hall (18 x 8 m) and two smaller rooms at the ends. Each house had four entrances, two at the short ends and two in the long walls. The doors where protected by porches. Besides the large longhouses there were also smaller houses to the north of the north eastern quarter, two small houses in the inner yard of the northeastern and southwestern quarter and a little square hut each near the northern and western gates.
The bailey of the fortress seems unique, as the other fortresses seem to lack this feature (so far only Aggersborg, Fyrkat and the Trelleborg near Slagelse have been fully excavated as of 2006). The bailey was protected by a rampart of its own to the east. The 15 longhouses of the bailey, each 26.33 meters long, were placed with their axis through the length of the buildings pointing to the center of the main castle.
In an extension of this bailey was a cemetery with 135 graves. Most buried were young men but some were also women or children. Two contained mass burials, one for five and one for eleven persons. Over two-thirds of the graves had no grave offerings, the others only had few pieces, weapons being rather rare. Only two graves were rich in items. One was a woman's grave with pearls, a bronze bucket, a wood casket and game stones. The other was the grave of a male with a bronze bowl and a silver adorned axe. The large amount of simple graves may indicate a Christian influence. Graves of horsemen were found on surrounding higher grounds.
The site was excavated from 1934 to 1942. Most of the finds were things of every day life: pottery, locks, keys, fittings, knives, whetstones, combs, weaving weights, scissors and needles. Weapons such as iron axes, arrow points and parts of shields.
Older datings put the castle near the year 1000. Datings by Dendrochronology have found the wood used for the construction to have been felled in the fall of 980 and thus being used for building presumably in the spring of 981. The rather short construction time and the complete lack of any signs of maintenance indicate an only short use of the buildings. Possibly the fortress was abandoned before it was completed. Signs of fire may indicate its destruction by fire. The regions around the gates show signs of longer usage though.
One of the Longhouses was reconstructed on the site in 1948. Further investigations have led to other opinions on the construction though. Today the site is an open air museum with some buildings for exhibits.References:
Perched atop its cliff where the Ploučnice meets the Elbe, Děčín Castle is one of the oldest and largest landmarks in northern Bohemia. In the past several hundred years it has served as a point of control for the Bohemian princes, a military fortress, and noble estate.
The forerunner of the Děčín Castle was a wooden fortress built towards the end of the 10th century by the Bohemian princes. The first written record of the province dates from 993 A.D. and of the fortress itself from 1128. In the thirteenth century it was rebuilt in stone as a royal castle that, under unknown circumstances, fell into the hands of the powerful Wartenberg dynasty around 1305.
Numerous later renovations has erased all but fragments of the original medieval semblance of the castle. A significant change to the castle came in the second half of the 16th century when it was held by the Saxon Knights of Bünau, who gradually rebuilt the lower castle into a Renaissance palace with a grand ceremonial hall. The current semblance of the castle is the work of the Thun-Hohensteins, who held the Děčín lands from 1628 to 1932. The Thuns originally came from southern Tyrol and gradually worked their way to the upper echelons of Hapsburg society where they regularly filled important political and church appointments.
The Thuns reworked the castle twice. The first reconstruction, in the Baroque style, was undertaken by Maximilian von Thun, Imperial envoy and diplomat, and was meant to enhance the ceremonial aspects of the property. A central element of the project was a grand access road, the Long Drive, ending in the upper gate of the completely rebuilt entry wing. Along the drive stretched an ornamental garden (today known as the Rose Garden) and a riding yard. Maximilian’s brother Johann Ernst von Thun was responsible for the erection of the Church of the Ascension of the Holy Cross in the town below.
The second and final reconstruction of the castle was undertaken in 1786–1803. The Gothic and Renaissance palaces were torn down, all structures were leveled to the same height and gave them a unified facade. On the riverfront the castle's new dominant feature arose, a slender clock tower. Thus the castle took on the Baroque-Classical style we see today.
In the course of the 19th century, the castle became an important cultural and political center. In the 20th century the castle was used as a military garrison for German and Soviet troops after being handed to the Czechoslovak state in 1932. In 1991 the castle reverted to the ownership of the city of Děčín and the gradual renovation of the devastated structure began.
The eastern wing serves as a branch of the Děčín Regional Museum. The northern wing is occupied by the State District Archives. The staterooms of the western wing welcome individual and group tours, weddings, concerts, exhibits, and other cultural events. The castle courtyard comes to life throughout the year with events ranging from the Historic May Fair to the Wine Festival in September.