even ugly castles deserve to be loved. or...?
Here's the deal. During my city visits, even if there is no castle or church on my must-see list, when I get there, I usually check those objects out. You never know. Here, in Uppsala, the castle was one of the top three things that I had to see, although I knew that it is nothing spectacular in the architectural sense. Nevertheless, Uppsala castle was a sign of power of newly reborn Swedish kingdom in the 16th century. By the order of Gustav Vasa the castle came to life and watched his son's fall.
It often happens, that royal palaces, nobility's mansions or churches change over centuries. They burn down, new generations want to rebuild them according to new trends in architecture. With Uppsala castle the case is slightly different. What we see today is not a changed version of the original building, but a whole new one, not linked to the first castle, built by the order of Gustav Vasa. From the very first castle in Uppsala we can visit only the ruins - Vasaborgen. So let's start with it and some historical details.
The beginnings of the castle in Uppsala are linked to the reign of Gustav Vasa and the year of 1549, to be precise. Gustav ordered constructions of several fortresses across Sweden in order to manifest power and protect from nobility and mighty Church. Here in Uppsala stood the first bastion front in the Nordic countries. Due to its location on Kasåsen's ridge, Gustav could control the town. Two large bastions were constructed facing the terrain on the flatter side of the ridge. At that time, these bastions represented the very latest military technology, and they were first of their kind in Scandinavia.
Erik XIV had a large wing added to the old fortress. Hall of state and the castle church were situated there. Before we move on with the history of the castle as a piece of architecture, let's take a closer look on an event known as Sturemorden, which was a turning point of Erik's reign. Usually, the early modern age kings sympathises either with nobility or with peasant. Erik was associated with the latter. Even his wife had a common origin. The king fought with nobility, what made him many powerful enemies. Numbers of death sentences given under his reign rose - from only one in 1562 to 232 five years later. Even his family was not safe from the conflict with Erik. His step brother John was put in jail after he married a Polish princess Katarina Jagiellonica without king's permission (this issue was just a cherry on top of the cake of other problems between brothers).
In May 1567 several noblemen were accused of treason against state and sentenced to death by Royal Commission. Two of them belonged to the Sture family, one of the most powerful family of that time in Sweden. Erik and Svante Sture, along with other noblemen, were taken to Uppsala castle, where they waited for the prosecution in front of Riksdag. In the meantime, another Sture, Nils, joined his family members behind bars. And it was Nils, who faced Erik in the prison cell on May 24th. Eriks stabbed him and ordered guards to kill everyone in the prison except for „lord Sten”. As there were two Stens, Sten Leijonhufvud and Sten Baner, they were both saved. Erik probably was a paranoia attack. Nobility, led by John and Charles, Erik's stepbrothers, rebelled against the king and deposed him in the long run.
In Vasaborgen we can visit cells, in which Stures were held.
The castle was rebuilt when John III was sitting on the Swedish throne. His regency was full of reconstructions. He was a driving force behind changing his father's fortifications into renaissance castles, like in Kalmar. In 1572 a great fire ravaged the town and the castle. This was a great opportunity for John to implement changes. The king hired Franciscus Pahr, an architect from Milan, who worked on the castle until his death in 1580 (in the end, John and Charles IX are responsible for hiring no less than 4 members of Pahr family). The castle gained pinnacles and towers, a whitewashed façade (sounds much more like Scandinavian design than this present pinkish colour, right?) and a castle church. The façades were not smooth like today, but decorated with rusticated ashlar. This style gives the impression that the castle is built of large, rectangular stone blocks. In fact it was mostly rendered brickwork. The most impressive façade was the South Wing with two towers. It also included the main entrance, which is the only thing that survived until today. This gate was a starting point of a road to Stockholm, which still runs in a straight line 7 km south. Originally, John's portal was centred on the main building, but it has now ended up to the side. Pahr's project contained also a northern wing, complementary to the southern one, but it was never realised. However, if it had happened, Uppsala castle would have been one of the largest castle complexes in Europe.
By Pahr's side worked a stucco master Antonius Watz, who took over after Franciscus death and led the construction works until his own death in 1603. Experience of both of those artists made an impact on decorations of the interiors and exteriors of the castle. It was all richly ornamented in stucco decorations. Even the towers were decorated with stucco in imitation of square, hewn stone. At that time this method was rare north of the Alps. Most remarkable were the stucco decorations in the large castle chapel. Fragments from it you can see below on the picture - approximately 400 square metre altar wall are preserved in the rooms of the castle, now occupied by Uppsala Art Museum.
Uppsala served in a symbolic and honourable role in Swedish history as a place, were 12 royal coronations took place, the most recent one in 1719. Political decisions were taken in this city as well. For example here, in 1593, Sweden was announced to be a Lutheran country. Also here Christina renounced the throne on June 6th 1654, in front of the Estates in the Hall of State.
The fire from 1702 damaged the floors above the John's portal, the south-west tower became a ruin. 5 years earlier the royal palace in Stockholm also burned down, so most of the money and effort were transferred to rebuild that object first and Uppsala castle was left behind. Even the materials, left after the fire in Uppsala, were transported to Stockholm to be used there.
Uppsala castle laid in ruins for more than 40 years after the fire. In 1744 Adolf Fredrik, heir to the throne, decided to make Uppsala his residence. Court architect Carl Hårleman was commissioned to renovate the castle. However, the old part of the was left as ruin, turned green and became known as Gröna kullen. The oldest generation living in Uppsala was sliding down as kids on this hill during winter. Beneath them ruins of the old castle waited till 1940s to be rediscovered.
What we can see nowadays is Hårleman's work. He added a mezzanine between the two bottom floors, and the windows were made smaller and more symmetrical. The outer walls were given a strict, French classical façade and painted red in commemoration of the old Vasa fortress (so if anyone thinks that this pinkish colour is the worst, try to google castle in Halmstad and compare both options, I am not sure which one is worse). The castle was never furnished (Swedish minimalism before it became a thing...?).
Nowadays, since 1750s, the castle serves as a residency for the County Governor. Dag Hammarskjöld, Secretary-General of the UN 1963-1961 grew up here after his father became Country Governor in 1907. Castle can be used also as a place to hold a conference, ball and feasts. The Hall of State can hold 700 people.
In the 16th century, during Gustav Vasa's reign, a large garden was planted between the castle and Fyrisån river. Another garden was laid out up on Gräsgården Bastion next to the royal aparments, of which today only ruins remains in Vasaborgen. This garden served only pleasure purposes. Probably by the order of queen Christina the fountain in the castle courtyard was installed. During her time, in 1644, the third castle garden was settled, about 250 m south-west of the castle. Primarily it was a kitchen garden. The fourth garden has its beginnings around 1665 on the west side, with large terraces and symmetrical planting. In the 18th century the garden took more Baroque shape. Later it was all donated by Gustav III to the University as a botanical garden in 1787. In the centre of this botanical garden stands Linneanum, declared opened in 1807 to celebrate the centenary of Carl Linnaeus' birth.
In the 1970s and 1980s the gardens went through restoration process. The castle terraces were refurbished and the fountain was added. Beside the botanical garden, Baroque and symmetrical, you can also visit the County Governor's Garden, dates from the 19th century. There we can find rolling landscape with gravel paths winding their way between the lilacs and apple trees. This garden was renovated in 2007, for another anniversary, this time it was 300 years after Linnaeus' birth.
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