In a chilly September day, the group approached the castle from the south. Located on the extreme northeastern tip of the island of Zealand controlling the entranceway to the Baltic Sea between Denmark and Sweden, Kronborg is one of the most important Renaissance castles in Northern Europe.
Two canons guarding the main entrance welcome the visitors. A series of moats and gates protect the route from the town to the castle. A gigantic red double door gets you to the interior court, and the multiple entrances to the residence.
In 1577, Frederik II commenced the building of the Chapel, and the grandiose inauguration took place in 1582. However, the many-colored woodcarvings that lend a special renaissance lustre to the room were still under completion in the following years. The castle fire of 1629 left the Chapel virtually untouched, however the furniture was removed. The space was needed for fencing, gymnastic exercises, and ammunition storage. In 1840-43, the Chapel was restored and the original furniture returned. On a few historical occasions, the Chapel has been the setting of princely weddings. Even today, civic couples are occasionally wed in the Chapel that belongs to the local parish of St. Marie Church. The first Sunday of each month and for church festivals the bells are still sounded for services.
The Queen’s Chamber
Frederik II fitted up this room for his beloved queen Sofie of Mecklenburg. Back then it was common for a king and queen to each have their own bedroom. Sofie’s chamber was a profusion of colors, precious materials and polished marble. During the day, sunlight sparkled in the water of a silver fountain and in the evening candlelight glittered in the large brass chandelier, reflected in the gilt ceiling. The room was renovated after the fire. Christian IV commissioned modern ceiling paintings to replace the carved wooden ceiling and added a new door made of precious wood. The door had already been ordered before the fire as part of the ongoing remodeling of the castle and was fortunately delivered after the fire. Today it is in the Ballroom.
The Queen’s Gallery
Frederik II felt very strongly about giving his young queen Sofie direct access from the royal chambers to the Chapel and the Ballroom in the opposite wing of Kronborg. The Gallery was made a convenient connecting passage. The Gallery’s width allowed the queen to walk through it to court festivities in the Ballroom wearing voluminous dress as the fashion at the time. Besides their beauty, the very girth of the dresses gave a certain degree of protection against insistent gentlemen. The gallery was more colorful in Frederik II’s and Christian IV’s era than it is today. The floorboards were painted in alternating colors of yellow and blue, and the walls were papered with red canvas. A large birdcage – a gift from Frederik II to Sofie in 1585 – stood along one wall.
The Ballroom was an important place at Kronborg Castle. When the castle was completed in 1585, the Ballroom was the largest hall in the Northern Europe. Its impressive size and appearance made it well suited for holding audiences for the king and for grand balls with dancing and theatre. The Ballroom has changed over the years. In the time of Frederik II, the ceiling had carved, painted and gilt wooden panels with turned rosettes. On festive occasions, a sumptuous woven canopy hung over the king’s table and a valuable collection of woven tapestries with portraits of one hundred Danish kings, hung on the walls. When Christian IV rebuilt Kronborg after the fire of 1629, the Ballroom was renovated by raising the ceiling and covering it with ceiling paintings depicting famous events in Danish history.
The Kronborg Tapestries
The 7 tapestries of kings in the Little Hall belonged to a series of 43 tapestries originally ordered by King Frederik II for the Ballroom at Kronborg in 1581. The final tapestries were delivered in 1585. Shortly after, the king ordered a magnificent canopy that was to be placed above the royal couple’s table during banquets. The canopy was set up by one of the end walls, while the long row of kings stood side by side on the tapestries that hung on the long sides of the Ballroom. This impressive portrait gallery was a successful attempt to create the image of a distinguished royal family, rivaling that of the foreign royal houses.
The quiet return to Copenhagen was filled with images of the life during this time period, all of us thinking of the cost to maintain such treasure.