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:
Het Steen is a medieval fortress in the old city centre of Antwerp. Built after the Viking incursions in the early Middle Ages as the first stone fortress of Antwerp, Het Steen is Antwerp's oldest building and used to be its oldest urban centre.
Previously known as Antwerpen Burcht (fortress), Het Steen gained its current name in around 1520, after significant rebuilding under Charles V. The fortress made it possible to control the access to the Scheldt, the river on whose bank it stands. It was used as a prison between 1303 and 1827. The largest part of the fortress, including dozens of historic houses and the oldest church of the city, was demolished in the 19th century when the quays were straightened to stop the silting up of the Scheldt. The remaining building, heavily changed, contains a shipping museum, with some old canal barges displayed on the quay outside.
In 1890 Het Steen became the museum of archeology and in 1952 an annex was added to house the museum of Antwerp maritime history, which in 2011 moved to the nearby Museum Aan de Stroom. Here you’ll also find a war memorial to the Canadian soldiers in WWII.
There are some beautiful plaques on the back side of the Steen Castle at Antwerp. Canadian visitors will especially want to see the plaques thanking the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry for their part in the liberation of Antwerp, in 1944.
At the entrance to Het Steen is a bas-relief of Semini, above the archway, around 2nd century. Semini is the Scandinavian God of youth and fertility (with symbolic phallus). A historical plaque near Het Steen explains that women of the town appealed to Semini when they desired children; the god was reviled by later religious clergy. Inhabitants of Antwerp previously referred to themselves as 'children of Semini'.
At the entrance bridge to the castle is a statue of a giant and two humans. It depicts the giant Lange Wapper who used to terrorise the inhabitants of the city in medieval times.