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:
Ceský Sternberk Castle is an early Gothic castle which was constructed, named and still owned by members of the same family. Today it is a residence that bears a long historical and architectural heritage and represents an attractive tourist destination open to the public. It is considered one of the best preserved Gothic Bohemian castles.
The castle was initially built in 1241 by Zdeslav of Divisov, later called Zdeslav Sternberg. The development of new firearms in the 14th century posed an unexpected threat to the defensibility of the castle. Its 13th century architects hadn't foreseen the danger of long-range firearms and its reinforcement became a necessity. During this period the Ceský Sternberk castle's fortifications were improved through the construction in the north of a three-story tower, which was connected to the castle by a rampart. In 1467 the castle was seized by the royal armies of George of Podébrady. Later, the ruined castle was regained by Sternberk's aristocracy, who, by the turn of the 15th to 16th century, had reconstructed the castle, renewed its defensive system and expanded it with the construction of a new cylindrical tower in the south and the Dungeon in the north. The castle managed to survive the looting of the rebels in 1627, during the Thirty Years' War. With the death of Jan Václav in 1712, the Holicý branch of the Sternberg family died out and its ownership passed to other families, who in 1751 built the lower palace next to the surrounding wall.
The ownership of the castle was returned to the Sternberg family in 1841 when Zdenék of Sternberg from the Konopisté branch of the family bought it. It remained in Sternberg's ownership until 1949 when it was nationalized by the Communist government of the Republic of Czechoslovakia. After the fall of Communism and the Velvet Revolution, in 1992, Ceský Sternberk castle returned to Jirí's son, the count Zdenék Sternberg, the current owner of the castle.
Ceský Sternberk Castle was originally built as a Gothic castle. Eventually it underwent several periods of reconstructions and further fortification and the Gothic architectural features were in parts concealed by the new reconstructions. Especially the interiors of the castle were realized under the Baroque and Rococo styles. In 1760, the master Carlo Brentano performed the elaborate stuccoing and renderings of the halls' interiors. The castle offers a rare collection of 545 copper engravings, depicting the entire history of the Thirty Years' War. Also, historical weapons and hunting trophies are exhibited within the castle's halls.