Skokloster Castle was built in the Baroque style between 1654 and 1676 by the wealthy military commander and count Carl Gustaf Wrangel. The castle was designed by architect Nicodemus Tessin the Elder. When Wrangel died, the castle passed into the hands of the Brahe family, and then, after 1930, became the property of the von Essens. In 1967 the castle and its contents were sold by the family to the Swedish government; since then it has been open as a museum.
The castle is a monument to the Swedish Age of Greatness, a period in the middle of the seventeenth century when Sweden expanded to became one of the major powers in Europe. The death of Wrangel in 1676 meant that the castle was never truly completed. The Brahe family who inherited the castle after Wrangels death, had their own family castles and did not complete the interiors. Thus the large banqueting hall remains in the same condition as the builders left it in the summer of 1676, complete with their tools. Skokloster Castle is the only building in Europe with a complete seventeenth-century building site of equal authenticity. Some rooms in the castle are unchanged since the time when the castle was first built. Others have been preserved using the same materials and building techniques as used in the 17th century.
The interiors of the castle are considered to be especially well preserved, despite being made of original material much of which is more than 300 years old and in a building without modern heating in a cold climate. It is not known exactly why the building preserves textiles and furniture so well, but it is thought to relate to the unusually slow changes in temperature during seasons.
The other, finished, parts of the castle displays the full, sumptuous splendour of the Baroque. The castle's detailed chambers are home to remarkable collections of paintings as well as furniture, textiles and silver and glass tableware. One of the most famous paintings is the 16-th century Vertumnus by Italian master Giuseppe Arcimboldo. It pictures the face of Holy roman emperor Rudolf II as the roman god of the seasons using fruits and vegetables. The painting was stolen in Prague in 17th century.
The castle armoury and library are particularly noteworthy, both founded on Wrangel's collections of weapons and books and enriched and enlarged by other seventeenth- and eighteenth-century aristocratic bequests, such as those by Carl Gustaf Bielke. The armoury contains the largest collection of personal 17th century military weapons in the world. Mostly muskets and pistols, but also swords - including Japanese samurai swords - small cannons, pikes and crossbows. The weapons collection also includes various exotic items such as a 16-century Eskimo canoe, snake skins and others. The original scale model of the castle which the architect Tessin made to show to count Wrangel is also there.References:
The Externsteine (Extern stones) is a distinctive sandstone rock formation located in the Teutoburg Forest, near the town of Horn-Bad Meinberg. The formation is a tor consisting of several tall, narrow columns of rock which rise abruptly from the surrounding wooded hills. Archaeological excavations have yielded some Upper Paleolithic stone tools dating to about 10,700 BC from 9,600 BC.
In a popular tradition going back to an idea proposed to Hermann Hamelmann in 1564, the Externsteine are identified as a sacred site of the pagan Saxons, and the location of the Irminsul (sacral pillar-like object in German paganism) idol reportedly destroyed by Charlemagne; there is however no archaeological evidence that would confirm the site's use during the relevant period.
The stones were used as the site of a hermitage in the Middle Ages, and by at least the high medieval period were the site of a Christian chapel. The Externsteine relief is a medieval depiction of the Descent from the Cross. It remains controversial whether the site was already used for Christian worship in the 8th to early 10th centuries.
The Externsteine gained prominence when Völkisch and nationalistic scholars took an interest in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This interest peaked under the Nazi regime, when the Externsteine became a focus of nazi propaganda. Today, they remain a popular tourist destination and also continue to attract Neo-Pagans and Neo-Nazis.