Kronborg Castle

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The history of Kronborg Castle goes all the way back to the 1420s, when the Danish king Erik of Pomerania, built a fortress at the location.

His objective was to take control of this, the narrowest point of Øresund, the Sound, so that he could collect dues from passing vessels. These highly unpopular dues would constitute a significant Crown revenue for over 400 years.

But the original fortress, named "Krogen", soon proved outdated and was gradually rebuilt in the late 1500s into a beautiful Renaissance castle suitable as a residence for the royal family.

Following a disastrous fire in 1629, King Christian IV had Kronborg restored. Completed in 1637, the reconstruction kept the Renaissance style but added a few, modern Baroque ornamentations.

Victorious in the Danish-Swedish war 1657-60, the Swedes heavily bombarded Kronborg and removed many precious artifacts as spoils of war. The royal family gave up Kronborg as a residence and after the military moved in, many of the fortifications were modernized albeit too late.

The original castle, "Krogen", was a simple 80 by 80 meters heavily walled construction. It contained three corner buildings made of stone, most of which still survive as part of today's buildings.

The castle was rebuilt into a four-wing construction, three stories high, and covered with yellow and gray sandstone.

Towers rose majestically at the corners and stair turrets added to the overall imposing impression.

Some of the gables and roofs were to some extent possibly influenced by the Dutch master constructor.

The splendor of the inside reflected the status of the royal family. Depicting Danish kings, forty large tapestries decorated the walls of the grand Ballroom. Fourteen of them have survived and half of these are still on display in the castle.

Heavily armed fortifications and moats ensured that Kronborg also served as a deterrent for passing vessels to avoid paying dues.

Going back to before "Krogen" was built, this prominently exposed northeastern point of Zealand was occasionally used to display criminals hung in gallows to warn pirates of the King's resoluteness.

As did the later Renaissance castle, Krogen's strong fortifications for its time ensured that passing vessels did not attempt to duck the imposed toll.

When the royal family abandoned Kronborg as a residence following the Danish-Swedish war in 1657-60, the military moved in and turned Kronborg into barracks.

From the mid-1700s and all the way to the early 20th century, Kronborg was used as a prison. In fact, many of the convicts labored for free to build the ramparts and casemates we see today.

Kronborg can even lay claim to fame by having housed the imprisoned Danish Queen Caroline Mathilde, sister of the English King george III.

Today, the castle is under administration of the Danish Ministry of Finance, which is currently undertaking some serious and much needed restorations of the castle and its surroundings.

Kronborg has been immortalized as the home of the legendary Danish Prince Hamlet portrayed in Shakespeare's play 'The Tragical History of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark', written somewhere around year 1600.

But William Shakespeare did not invent Hamlet. This legendary figure was already mentioned almost 800 years ago in Saxo Grammaticus' (app. 1150-1220) "History of the Danes".

From there he migrated into a story of "Amleth" written by Kristiern Pedersen in 1514 (MOF). A subsequent French offspring of the story appeared later in the 1500s and, finally -before Shakespeare-, the English writer Thomas Kyd authored a drama story around Hamlet in 1590.

Having said that, it was Shakespeare that created the association between Hamlet, Kronborg Castle and Elsinore City.

"Hamlet" has been performed as a stage play at Kronborg Castle grounds numerous times with world famous actors playing the role of Prince Hamlet.

Another legendary figure is associated with Kronborg Castle. The statue of "Holger the Dane" can be seen in the casemates under Kronborg. The story goes that he shall arise and save Denmark if the country should come into grave danger.

But the figure of Holger the Dane actually first appeared in a French legend from the 11th century. He eventually found his way into a 1534 Danish tale by Kristiern Pedersen -'The Chronicle of King Olger the Dane'- and from there into the hearts of the Danes as a symbol of national pride.

Kronborg is visited by some 200,000 tourist each year and is well worth your time. You may even be in luck and be there on a day where the army fires blanks in the cannons on the fortifications.


Ministry of Finance ("MOF")
Own photos taken June 2005
Display program inspired by Matteo Bicocchi and BT

No other similar photo albums are available

Built in 1585, Kronborg Castle is located at the northeastern point of Zealand Island at the narrowest point between Denmark and Sweden.

Kronborg replaced a fortress named "Krogen" erected on these premises in the early part of the 15th century.

The extant castle, kept in a typical Renaissance style, stem from 1639 after most of the original structure had been consumed by fire a decade earlier.

The castle is located at the narrowest point of Øresund, the sound between Denmark and Sweden.

The distance between the coastlines is a mere 4 km, giving the castle an excellent position to control shipping into the Baltic Sea to the south.

Sweden is clearly visible in the background right.

Model of "Krogen", the original fortress erected by the Danish King, Eric of Pomerania, on the premises in the year 1426.

The King's purpose in building "Krogen" was to control access to the Baltic Sea and hence enable him to collect passage dues as a percentage of the cargo value carried by the vessels.

A lighthouse has been installed in the northeastern tower to assist captains navigate the narrow strait.

Note the still fully functional cannons on the bastion.

The military routinely fire the cannons to ensure they are ready to defend the kingdom against marauding vessels or pirates.

The cannons are fired -nowadays presumably at some foreign vessel attempting to collect transfer pricing dues.

No photo safari is complete without a map. This one outlines all the interesting points to see.

The black square between the bastions is the castle itself. Note the inner- and outer moats.

Tourists at the peaceful, outer moat.

An idyllic cobblestone covered path leaves from the outer moat to the inner moat, barely visible in the background.

Main entrance through the bastion and into the castle grounds proper.

The entrance was constructed in year 1664 and has remained intact apart from a few restorations.

The bridge in front spans the inner moat.

During the 19th and into the first part of the 20th century, Kronborg was under control of the military.

In the center back is the building reserved for the commandant of the castle.

Peaceful alley between the military barracks in the warm afternoon sun.

The so-called trumpet tower along the center of the main annex.

The beautiful Renaissance decoration stand out in all the structures.

This tower is nicknamed "the Pigeon Tower".

The decorated access gate to the inner courtyard.

Access doors to the casemate network under the castle from inside the courtyard.

This entrance was built in 1585. Note the elaborate decorations as well as the copper drainage pipes.

Extensive casemates run underground -both under the fortifications as well as under the castle proper.

A section of the casemate network -note the branches.

"Holger the Dane", aka. "Ogier the Dane", has been resting in the casemates under Kronborg with his faithful sword, Curtana, since 1909.

According to legend, he shall awake and defend the Kingdom of Denmark if its existence is threatened by foreign powers.

The myth of Holger the Dane paradoxically has its origin in 11th century France.

Time for some entertainment.

The navy marching band delivers the music -actually, they played well.

Let's go inside the castle.

This is the restored ballroom on the second floor.

To allow for more space an inserted floor had halved the height of the ballroom, but this has been removed and the room brought back to its origin.

A corner fireplace dating back to the year 1603 and still functional.

A red velvet canopy bed, with golden backdrop.

Note the Chinese vases on top of the cabinet left.

And a red satin four-poster bed next to some exquisite office furniture on which to write your diary before retiring for the night.

Many of the interior walls of the castle are covered with antique and rare tapestry.

This one depicts the birth of Jesus Christ with notations in the gothic language.

Lest we not forget that the great English writer, Shakespeare, immortalized Kronborg Castle by casting his play "Hamlet, Prince of Denmark" at this castle, named Elsinore.

The tragedy has been performed inside the castle premises many times, latest in 2009 with Jude Law as Hamlet.

'To be, or not to be -that's the question;'

But Kronborg premises is also well known for its great fishing opportunities.

The sea bed drops off quite steeply so fishing from the shore rocks suffices to make super catches.

Note the two anglers a little further back from the camera.