Kronborg History and Architecture
In spite of later alterations the
Kronborg Palace is essentially the creation of Frederick II and the
outstanding symbol of his royal power.
The original Krogen or ‘Ørekrog’ was laid out in the
1420s by Erik of Pomerania.
A high curtain wall with wall-walks and a gate-house enclosed three
stone buildings: the royal residence at the north-east, the palace and ceremonial hall at the
south-west and, to the south-east, a building that probably contained the chapel.
By the mid-16th century the fortifications were obsolete, and new
plans were ordered from Hans von Diskow but they were only partially realized. From 1574
Frederick started a fresh project and rebuilt Krogen, adding projecting bastions and curtain
walls, under the direction of Hans van Paeschen. T
he name was changed to ‘Kronborg’ in 1577, the year
that Antonis van Obberghen replaced van Paeschen. By 1585 the castle had become a magnificent
royal residence and one of the strongest fortresses in northern Europe: a symbol of Danish
royal power, erected with funds from foreign merchant ships.
Kronborg was repaired by Christian IV after fire
damage in 1629 and sacked and occupied by the Swedes between 1658 and 1660.
In the 18th century the Kronborg fortress was
extended and the castle restored, serving as a garrison from 1785 to 1924; the palace chapel
was restored from 1838 to 1843. Other restorations were carried out from 1866 to 1897 and from
1925 to 1937. In 1915 the Trade and Shipping Museum was installed in the north wing.
The plan of Kronborg Castle was determined by
its predecessor, which it effectively encapsulated, its outer surround corresponding to the
medieval curtain. Frederick II’s rebuilding began with the great cannon tower over the southern
part of the palace, while the old royal residence was extended to the west for the castellan’s
apartments and the administrative offices. The castle chapel was installed in the south
By 1579 a third storey had been added to the south wing to accommodate
the great ceremonial hall, and the octagonal stair-tower heightened and equipped with a balcony
The other wings were then raised to match. The fourth wing to the
east, facing the Öresund, was built as a narrow, three-storey connecting corridor, with closed
galleries in the upper two storeys, leading directly from the queen’s apartments to the chapel
and the ballroom.
The castle was originally built with red brick walls and sandstone
details; from 1580, beginning with the south wing, it was faced in sandstone. The roof tiles
were replaced with copper.
The finished building was a four-wing complex, crowned by the
wall-walks between the towers with their pointed spires. Its medieval core is apparent in the
uneven depth of the wings and the irregularity of the window axes.
Renaissance ideas are confined to the architectural details, of which
the finest are the rusticated ground floor on the courtyard side of the east wing and the
classically composed display gable façade of the south wing with the corner tower ‘Kakkelborg’.
In addition to the architectural ornament, these parts display figural sculptures (Classical
gods, Old Testament kings and Christian Virtues) celebrating the might of the king. The king’s
status as the ruler of the seas provided the theme of the bronze Neptune fountain, supplied by
Georg Labenwolf in 1583.
The only major room to survive is the palace chapel (consecrated
1582), an aisled hall whose vault is supported by Tuscan columns with pronounced entasis. The
ballroom above lost its carved wooden ceiling, wall paintings and two alabaster and marble
fireplaces in the fire of 1629, but it has been reconstructed in all its imposing
Christian IV’s rebuilding of 1631–1637 under Hans van Steenwinckel
included alterations to the spires and dormers, and in the royal apartments new doorframes,
fireplaces and ceiling paintings by Hans’s brother Morten Steenwinckel (1595–1646) as well as
ceiling paintings (1635) by Gerrit van Honthorst. For the ballroom, the largest project, the
King ordered ceiling paintings to supplement Knieper’s tapestries, showing heroic episodes from
Kronborg is a masterpiece of the Netherlandish
Renaissance, designed by Netherlandish architects and including Netherlandish decorative
influences. During the 1570s and 1580s it provided work for numerous Netherlanders, especially
after the fall of Antwerp in 1576.
Kronborg was thus the main port of entry for Netherlandish influence
on Renaissance architecture and painting in Denmark. Through the illustrations in Braun and
Hogenberg’s Civitatis orbis terrarum the castle became known throughout Europe, as may be seen
in William Shakespeare’s setting of Hamlet there.
To rich the Kronborg Castle follow the map provided bellow, to the
following adress: Kronborg , Helsingør, 3000 , Denmark.
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