Storkyrkan (Great Church, Stockholm Cathedral), officially Church of St. Nicholas, is the oldest church in Gamla Stan, the old town in central Stockholm. It was first mentioned in 1279 and according to tradition was originally built by Birger Jarl, the founder of the city itself. For nearly four hundred years it was the only parish church in the city, the other churches of comparible antiquity originally built to serve the spiritual needs religious communities (e. g., Riddarholm Church). It became a Lutheran Protestant church in 1527.
The parish church since the Middle Ages, covering the whole island on which the Old Town stands, it has also been the cathedral of Stockholm since the Diocese of Stockholm was created out of the Archdiocese of Uppsala and the Diocese of Strängnäs in 1942. Because of its convenient size and its proximity to the earlier royal castle and the present royal palace it has frequently been the site of major events in Swedish history, such as coronations, royal wedding and royal funerals. The last Swedish king to be crowned here was Oscar II in 1873. Crown Princess Victoria, oldest daughter of King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia, was married to Daniel Westling on 19 June, 2010 at the Storkyrkan, the same date on which her parents were also married in Storkyrkan in 1976.
Inside the church the most famous artefact is the dramatic wooden statue of Saint George and the Dragon attributed to Bernt Notke (1489). The statue, commissioned to commemorate the Battle of Brunkeberg (1471), also serves as a reliquary, containing relics supposedly of Saint George and two other saints.
The church also contains a copy of the oldest known image of Stockholm, the painting Vädersolstavlan ("The Sun Dog Painting"), a 1632 copy of a lost original from 1535. The painting was commissioned by the scholar and reformer Olaus Petri, a 19th century statue of whom is found on the eastern side of the church. It depicts a halo display, e.g. sun dogs, which gives the painting its name and in the 16th century was interpreted as a presage.
The monumental pulpit is the work of Burchard Precht in 1698-1702 and is in a French Baroque style and became the model for a number of other large pulpits in Sweden. The relief on the front of the pulpit itself depicts the story of the Canaanite woman. The door of the pulpit is adorned with a relief of Christ's head, while, its pediment is crowned by a statue of Hope with putti on either side. Below the memorial are the arms of the Funck family who bore the greater cost of the pulpit. Beneath the pulpit and surrounded by an iron railing lies the worn gravestone of Olaus Petri.References:
The moated castle at Beersel is one of the few exceptionally well-preserved examples of medieval fortifications in Belgium. It remains pretty much as it must have appeared in the 15th century. Remarkably, it was never converted into a fortified mansion. A visitor is able to experience at first-hand how it must have felt to live in a heavily fortified castle in the Middle Ages.
The castle was built in around 1420 as a means of defence on the outer reaches of Brussels. The tall, dense walls and towers were intended to hold any besiegers at bay. The moat and the marshy ground along its eastern, southern and western edges made any attack a formidable proposition. For that reason, any attackers would have chosen its weaker northern defences where the castle adjoins higher lying ground. But the castle was only taken and destroyed on one occasion in 1489, by the inhabitants of Brussels who were in rebellion against Maximilian of Austria.
After being stormed and plundered by the rebels it was partially rebuilt. The pointed roofs and stepped gables are features which have survived this period. The reconstruction explains why two periods can be identified in the fabric of the edifice, particularly on the outside.
The red Brabant sandstone surrounds of the embrasures, now more or less all bricked up, are characteristic of the 15th century. The other embrasures, edged with white sandstone, date from the end of the 15th century. They were intended for setting up the artillery fire. The merlons too are in white sandstone. The year 1617 can be clearly seen in the foundation support on the first tower. This refers to restorations carried out at the time by the Arenberg family.
Nowadays, the castle is dominated by three massive towers. The means of defence follow the classic pattern: a wide, deep moat surrounding the castle, a drawbridge, merlons on the towers, embrasures in the walls and in the towers, at more or less regular intervals, and machiolations. Circular, projecting towers ensured that attacks from the side could be thwarted. If the enemy were to penetrate the outer wall, each tower could be defended from embrasures facing onto the inner courtyard.
The second and third towers are flanked by watchtowers from which shots could be fired directly below. Between the second and third tower are two openings in the walkway on the wall. It is not clear what these were used for. Were these holes used for the disposing of rubbish, or escape routes. The windows on the exterior are narrow and low. All light entering comes from the interior. The few larger windows on the exterior date from a later period. It is most probable that the third tower - the highest - was used as a watchtower.