Frederiksborg Castle is a former royal castle
situated in Hillerød, in north Zealand, Denmark.
The medieval village of Hillerød can be deduced from the first
mention, in 1275, of a manor house, Hillerødsholm, built on an islet in a marshy area
surrounded by forests.
In 1560 King Frederick II acquired Hillerødsholm and converted it into
a royal residence, renaming it Frederiksborg. The plan of the existing castle is still based on
Frederick’s hunting-lodge, with the buildings disposed on three islets in an artificial lake
(dammed in the 1560s).
The servants’ buildings on the first islet have been preserved, with
heavy corner towers at the north bearing the King’s motto and the date 1562 in iron
Other surviving buildings include the pantry wing (1580s), on the west
bank in front of the third islet, and the baths, built by Hans Floris in the park north-west of
The buildings are of red brick, with some stepped gables and details
in light sandstone, following Netherlandish building traditions, which are most pronounced in
Records, excavations and two views by Hans Knieper—one on a tapestry,
which originally hung in the ballroom at Kronborg Castle, Helsingør, and the other on a panel
painting, originally at Frederiksborg Castle(Mariefred, Gripsholm Slott)—show that the royal
residence was on the third islet; it was a double house, probably already in existence and
altered in 1575 by the King.
On the middle islet there was a large half-timbered kitchen building
with, facing west, a chapel embellished with Italianate Renaissance gables.
Christian IV, who was born at Frederiksborg, probably
planned to convert the manor into a princely residence in the European manner soon after his
accession. In 1599 work began on a pleasure palace known as Sparepenge (destroyed in 1720),
which served as a temporary residence on the north bank of the lake from 1602 to 1611 while the
main castle was being built on the third islet.
The quadrangular castle was built in phases to 1623: first the royal
residence to the north, then the west wing with the chapel (interior arranged 1608–1617)
beneath the ballroom, as in Kronborg Castle, and finally the princesses’ wing and the low
terrace wing to the south.
At the outbreak of the Kalmar War (1611–1613) the main exterior was
completed, and there followed three new buildings on the middle islet: the house of the lord of
the manor, the chancellery and a huge gate-tower by the bridge to the first islet, where the
buildings from Frederick II’s reign were allowed to remain standing, contrary to the original
The first architect of Christian IV’s castle is unknown. Hans van
Steenwinckel I, whose son Hans II was attached to the building programme from 1614, has been
suggested, but only the names of the leading craftsmen, including Jørgen Friborg ( fl
1588–1625) and Caspar Boegaert (d 1612), are mentioned in the records.
The apparent lack of a chief architect until after the Kalmar War may
explain the inconsistencies of planning.
The French-inspired plan of the castle’s main building with its cour
d’honneur opening axially on to the basse-cour of the middle islet, above the low terrace wing,
was only partially achieved because neither Sparepenge nor the old buildings on the first islet
are on the north–south main axis.
In the main castle building the symmetrical requirements of the
Renaissance style are broken by the large clock-tower on the chapel wing, while the three wings
are effectively independent houses superficially merged to form a whole.
There are numerous instances of improvisations and changes during
The Frederiksborg Castle thus
combines old and new. The exterior, like its predecessor, is in Netherlandish Renaissance
style, red brick buildings with sandstone details, embellished by sweeping gables and
The resulting picturesque quality was evidently more important than the
rigorous requirements of symmetry.
Moreover, of greatest importance for the builder was the lavish sculptural
decoration, which glorifies Christian IV as the leading Protestant prince through themes from
astrology and ancient mythology (the Mint gate-house, the terrace wing and marble gallery, and
the Neptune Fountain of 1615–24 by Adriaen de Vries; original now Stockholm, Drottningholms
Slott) and ancient Roman and Danish history (e.g. pedestal statues of Alexander the Great and
Julius Caesar, and emperors and legendary kings in the window gables).
This triumphal process culminates in the chapel , the entire decoration of
which can be seen as a demonstration of the King’s theocratic princely ideal.
The chapel, with its gallery system, represents a further development of the
architectural traditions from the Protestant princely chapel of the 16th century (e.g. in
Germany at Schloss Hartenfels, Torgau and Schloss Wilhelmsburg, Schmalkalden) and is closely
related to the recently built chapel at Koldinghus Castle, Jutland.
It is the only stateroom to be almost entirely preserved from the time of
the castle’s original building.
The ballroom, with its tapestries by Karel van Mander II (c. 1579–1623)
depicting Christian IV’s coronation and victories in the Kalmar War (now only partially known
through copy drawings of 1858 by Heinrich Hansen (1821–90) and Frederick Christian Lund
(1826–1901)), and the King’s private oratory, installed and decorated from 1615 to 1620 in the
north end of the chapel, with paintings by Pieter Lastman, Adriaen van Nieulandt and others,
were destroyed by fire in 1859 and can be reconstructed only from early descriptions and
representations prior to that date.
In 1659 Frederiksborg was occupied by the Swedes, who
removed several art treasures, including the Neptune Fountain (replaced in 1888 by a
The interior of the Mint gate-house and the secret
passage, added to the west side of the main palace building from 1612, were redecorated as an
audience chamber in 1681–8 in glorification of the absolute monarch Christian V by his chief
architect, Lambert van Haven. In 1720 a formal garden in the French style was laid out north of
the lake (where Sparepenge was formerly situated) by Johan Cornelius Krieger.
The kings now resided at Frederiksborg rarely, and it was only with
the onset of 19th-century Romanticism that the building became a commemorative castle to the
glorious past of Denmark–Norway, and a royal residence once again under Frederick VII
(1848–1863). The fire in the main castle in 1859, however, spared only the chapel and the
gate-house. This was felt to be a national catastrophe, and a rebuilding programme was soon
started under the direction of Ferdinand Meldahl.
In 1875 the exterior of the main palace was essentially completed, and
in 1877 the Nationalhistoriske Museum på Frederiksborg was established at the initiative of the
brewer Jacob Christian Jacobsen, under whose direction the interior was reconstructed with
funding from his newly established Carlsberg Foundation.
The town of Hillerød was always dependent on the castle, since it was
difficult to persuade people to settle in that remote, wooded region. It became a place of
residence for building-workers, courtiers and foreign guests, and the castle chapel was its
parish church from 1631.
Owing to the fires of 1692, 1733 and 1834 no significant historic
buildings have been preserved from before the Neo-classical period of the early 19th century,
the most important example of which is the former grammar school (1834) by Jørgen Hansen Koch
Among more characteristic buildings from the second half of the 19th
century, the most important are by Vilhelm Holck (1856–1936) in a historicist style inspired by
Christian IV’s Renaissance castle(e.g. the town hall, built 1887–8, and the ‘Sparekassen’ bank,
Frederiksborg Castle is located at the
following adress: Slotsgade 54, 3400 Hillerød, Denmark. Use this map to get help with
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