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:
From its origin as a small stronghold built by the ancient Illyrian tribe Dalmatae, becoming a royal castle that was the seat of many Croatian kings, to its final development as a large fortress during the Ottoman wars in Europe, Klis Fortress has guarded the frontier, being lost and re-conquered several times. Due to its location on a pass that separates the mountains Mosor and Kozjak, the fortress served as a major source of defense in Dalmatia, especially against the Ottoman advance, and has been a key crossroad between the Mediterranean belt and the Balkan rear.
Since Duke Mislav of the Duchy of Croatia made Klis Fortress the seat of his throne in the middle of the 9th century, the fortress served as the seat of many Croatia"s rulers. The reign of his successor, Duke Trpimir I, the founder of the Croatian royal House of Trpimirović, is significant for spreading Christianity in the Duchy of Croatia. He largely expanded the Klis Fortress, and in Rižinice, in the valley under the fortress, he built a church and the first Benedictine monastery in Croatia. During the reign of the first Croatian king, Tomislav, Klis and Biograd na Moru were his chief residences.
In March 1242 at Klis Fortress, Tatars who were a constituent segment of the Mongol army under the leadership of Kadan suffered a major defeat while in pursuit of the Hungarian army led by King Béla IV. After their defeat by Croatian forces, the Mongols retreated, and Béla IV rewarded many Croatian towns and nobles with 'substantial riches'. During the Late Middle Ages, the fortress was governed by Croatian nobility, amongst whom Paul I Šubić of Bribir was the most significant. During his reign, the House of Šubić controlled most of modern-day Croatia and Bosnia. Excluding the brief possession by the forces of Bosnian King, Tvrtko I, the fortress remained in Hungaro-Croatian hands for the next several hundred years, until the 16th century.
Klis Fortress is probably best known for its defense against the Ottoman invasion of Europe in the early 16th century. Croatian captain Petar Kružić led the defense of the fortress against a Turkish invasion and siege that lasted for more than two and a half decades. During this defense, as Kružić and his soldiers fought without allies against the Turks, the military faction of Uskoks was formed, which later became famous as an elite Croatian militant sect. Ultimately, the defenders were defeated and the fortress was occupied by the Ottomans in 1537. After more than a century under Ottoman rule, in 1669, Klis Fortress was besieged and seized by the Republic of Venice, thus moving the border between Christian and Muslim Europe further east and helping to contribute to the decline of the Ottoman Empire. The Venetians restored and enlarged the fortress, but it was taken by the Austrians after Napoleon extinguished the republic itself in 1797. Today, Klis Fortress contains a museum where visitors to this historic military structure can see an array of arms, armor, and traditional uniforms.