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:
Kroměříž stands on the site of an earlier ford across the River Morava. The gardens and castle of Kroměříž are an exceptionally complete and well-preserved example of a European Baroque princely residence and its gardens and described as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The first residence on the site was founded by bishop Stanislas Thurzo in 1497. The building was in a Late Gothic style, with a modicum of Renaissance detail. During the Thirty Years' War, the castle was sacked by the Swedish army (1643).
It was not until 1664 that a bishop from the powerful Liechtenstein family charged architect Filiberto Lucchese with renovating the palace in a Baroque style. The chief monument of Lucchese's work in Kroměříž is the Pleasure Garden in front of the castle. Upon Lucchese's death in 1666, Giovanni Pietro Tencalla completed his work on the formal garden and had the palace rebuilt in a style reminiscent of the Turinese school to which he belonged.
After the castle was gutted by a major fire in March 1752, Bishop Hamilton commissioned two leading imperial artists, Franz Anton Maulbertsch and Josef Stern, arrived at the residence in order to decorate the halls of the palace with their works. In addition to their paintings, the palace still houses an art collection, generally considered the second finest in the country, which includes Titian's last mythological painting, The Flaying of Marsyas. The largest part of the collection was acquired by Bishop Karel in Cologne in 1673. The palace also contains an outstanding musical archive and a library of 33,000 volumes.
UNESCO lists the palace and garden among the World Heritage Sites. As the nomination dossier explains, 'the castle is a good but not outstanding example of a type of aristocratic or princely residence that has survived widely in Europe. The Pleasure Garden, by contrast, is a very rare and largely intact example of a Baroque garden'. Apart from the formal parterres there is also a less formal nineteenth-century English garden, which sustained damage during floods in 1997.
Interiors of the palace were extensively used by Miloš Forman as a stand-in for Vienna's Hofburg Imperial Palace during filming of Amadeus (1984), based on the life of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who actually never visited Kroměříž. The main audience chamber was also used in the film Immortal Beloved (1994), in the piano concerto scene.