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Kalmar Castle, Kalmar, Sweden

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Kalmar Castle is the most well-preserved Renaissance castle in northen Europe, and has played an important role in the history of Sweden since it first was built in the end of the 12th Century. The castle is positioned in the old, coastal city of Kalmar, in the east of Sweden.

From Tower to Palace

The original keep was built before 1250. In the 1280s new buildings were added following the most popular west European patterns and styles of the time. The stronghold had four round towers and one powerful gatetower1 connected by a curtain wall. Several stone buildings were built inside the wall.

Later, the original keep was demolished, and a castle church was prepared in a newly constructed section south of the gatetower. In 1540, the Swedish King Gustav Vasa (1523-60) began several additions and rebuilding work. Among other elements, in 1545 the large imposing banks were constructed, beginning at the castle's west front and in the 1550s new residential quarters were added to the north.

Gustav Vasa's son, Erik XIV (1560-68) had several rooms prepared with the most magnificent decorations, including King Erik's Stateroom. Gustav Vasa's other sons, Johan III (1568-92) and Karl IX (1604-1611), completed the castle into more or less the form it has today when a new south sling with roof was added in 1569.

In 1570, the brothers Johan Baptista and Dominicus Pahr were associated with the construction work and because of them, more sculpted portals were added, along with the masterly sculpted well in the centre of the castle yard from 1577-78. Between the years 1600-1609, during Karl IX's reign, the banks were completed and, in 1634, a floor for the country governor was prepared.

Catastrophes and Sieges

The castle suffered heavy damage during the siege of Kalmar by the Danish in 1611, in which the city was invaded, and the castle fell to enemy assault. Following that, the castle's maintenance was somewhat meagre. In 1642, the castle was again badly damaged by a fire and heavy repair work began for King Karl XI's (1660-97) royal tour of the country.

Decay and Restoration

At the beginning of the 18th Century, the castle was demoted to a storage facility, royal armoury and prison, although the royal chapel was used on a regular basis. During 1776-87 a royal distillery was housed in the castle, and to accommodate those responsible for the work there some modern housing was prepared.

The restoration of the castle began in 1860-62 and is still ongoing. From 1873, the castle was used by Kalmar County Ancient Monuments Society for museum exhibitions. The next stage of restoration was proposed by Helgo Zetterwall and Carl Möller. It mainly involved the exterior of the structure, with the result that the gatetower was raised to its original 11th Century height.

Restoration in the last century was completed following antique principals, between 1914-41, under the supervision of Martin Olsson. Since this time further restoration work has continued steadily and continuously to this day.

The Union of Kalmar

Prior to the close of the 14th Century, the monarchy of Sweden had been growing steadily in power, which significantly reduced the power and influence of the aristocracy. While a council of the aristocracy was responsible for electing the monarch, this shift of power threatened their role. To put an end to the threat, the aristocracy dethroned the King and put in his place the ruler of their ally in the revolt, Albert of Mecklenburg, ruler of a principality in northern Germany. However, this alliance became impossible to maintain and the aristocrats overthrew Albert and the Danish Queen Margaret was installed in his place in 1389.

In 1397, Kalmar Castle, and the town as a whole, was the focus of one the most important political events of Scandinavian history - the foundation of the Union of Kalmar, which joined all of the Nordic countries under a common regent. The regent was Erik of Pomerania, a relative to Queen Margaret, and the Queen attempted to maintain influence over Erik in thanks to the Swedish aristocracy.

The Modern Castle

Today, Kalmar Castle is open to the public for guided tours, feasts and conferences. The castle is open daily from April to September, and on the second weekend of every other month.

1The Swedish term is Kuretornet.

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