Kronborg Castle

Kronborg History

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 gatehouse enclosed three stone buildings: the royal residence at the northeast, the palace and ceremonial hall at the southwest, and, to the southeast, 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.

The 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.

Schloss Kronborg

In the 18th century, the Kronborg fortress was extended and the castle was 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 wing.

Kronborg Castle

By 1579 a third story had been added to the south wing to accommodate the tremendous ceremonial hall, and the octagonal stair-tower heightened and equipped with a balcony for trumpeters.

The other wings were then raised to match. The fourth wing to the east, facing the Öresund, was built as a narrow, three-story connecting corridor, with closed galleries in the upper two stories, 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 with 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.

Kronborg Castle Interior

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 king’s might. 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 main 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 dimensions.

Kronborg Castle Interior

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 Denmark’s history

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.

Kronborg Castle Location

To reach the Kronborg Castle follow the map provided below, to the following address: Kronborg, Helsingør, 3000, Denmark.

Kronborg Castle Map

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