swedish “game of thrones”, version: kalmar

The visit in Kalmar couldn’t focus only on seeing the castle. Walk around the city was compulsory, as well as photo session of the cathedral.  Among all of those stuff there is a complement to history of Kalmar.

Kalmar Castle, the interiors

THE HISTORY OF KALMAR

Kalmar is the third biggest city of Småland (after Jönköping and Växjö). Until today people of Småland are known as independent and resourceful. Inhabitants of this county during medieval times developed their communities according to a way of thinking “no one will take care of you unless you do it yourself”. This type of approach to life was not the most desirable from king’s perspective – any kind of taxation was more troublesome than usual, not mentioning that the most famous Swedish rebel from the early modern age, Nils Dacke, was from Småland. As Ingvar Kamprad. But the founder of IKEA used other attributes of his fellow-countrymen. And I’m not talking about antisemitism. But I will elaborate this another time.

The oldest sources mentioning Kalmar come from the first decade of 13th century, although excavations reveal first settlements, which are one hundred years older. Kalmar is also famous for the oldest Swedish sigil, dated 1255-1267. Why is it called Kalmar in the first place? Kalm means collection of stones, which is something that can be found around Kalmar… and in many other places in Sweden. Probably the second part of city’s name emerged due to the influence of German settlers from Wismar.

Kalmar received privileges to trade already in 13th century. Craftsmen had to meet two requirements: they had to make the products themselves and they had to make them in Kalmar. Excavations from 2012 and soil samples showed that the medieval diet of Kalmar citizens was full of rye, wheat and beans. This discovery was interesting due to the fact, that those elements of diet were not found in other Swedish communities. High rye content is associated with culture of bread, which was more common for the continental Europe. The fact, that expensive wheat was found in the extraordinary amount in Kalmar, indicates the position of the city. Kalmar was one of the most important Swedish harbours.

Between 13th and 14th century the population of Kalmar was stable and topped up to 2 or 3 thousand inhabitants (for comparison, during that time Stockholm had 6 thousand people and Lubek 25 thousand inhabitants). City was governed by the city council. Among the inhabitants merchants and craftsmen dominated, very often with German origin, and nobility had their estates outisde of the city borders.

Yet, it was not easy to reach Kalmar harbour due to it’s shallow and rocky sound. To facilitate navigation and also to improve the defense system around Kalmar, small island of Grimskärs was used. Its name is known since 1534. Sandbank starts beside the island, as well as deeper channel, which allowed safe navigation to the harbour. Permanent fortification was erected under Gustav II Adolph in 1623. In August the commander of the castle received an order to finish all fortifications around Kalmar and to send 400 soliders to Grimskärs. The redoubt on the island was used in military purposes until the end of 17th century. During 19th century there were few attempts to build a lighthouse on the island. The last one was constructed during the World War II, but even that one was dismantled. The lighthouse that you can see today is standing in the water. In 1943 redoubt was fused in eight mines, each containing 200 kg ofTNT.

Grimskärs redoubt

Grimskärs redoubt

Kalmar was a city located by the border with Denmark until 1658, when treaty of Roskilde was signed and Skåne, Gotland, Blekinge, Halland and Bohuslän became Swedish territories. Since then Kalmar started to lose its position and the fall was fullfiled with the decision of moving the fleet to Karlskrona in 1689.

In Kalmar there is the only land connection with Oland – Ölandsbron, built between 1967 and 1972. The bridge is hanging 40 meter over the sea level and is 6072 meters long, which makes it the longest bridge in Sweden and one of the longest in Europe.

I was advertising this post with bloodbath. In Kalmar even two of them took place. The frist one was in May 1505, carried out by of the order of Danish king John Oldenburg. The mayor and the city counsellors were beheaded. It was a punishment for helping Swedes to regain the city two years earlier. In Kalmar Swedes were supposed to sign an armistice with Danish king, but they never arrived to the city. King used their abscence and conducted a revenge for betrayal.

The second bloodbath that took place in Kalmar has Polish origins. Sigismund III was king of Poland and Sweden until his uncle, Charles IX, deposed him from Swedish throne. Sigismund went to Sweden to regain his father’s throne and his troops took the Kalmar castle. His army under the command of Władysław Bekiesz defended the castle since summer 1598. Year later, in April, Charles regained the city and took the castle back on May 12th. Four days later he organised a bloodbath, during which 22 noblemen were executed.

During its history Kalmar castle was besieged 22 times and after the conflict between Sigismund and Charles people of Kalmar lived in peace for a short while. New conflict emerged from strifes with Sweden’s neighbour. Swedes and Danes regularly found new causes to fight with each other. Big part in exacerbating the conflict had trade issues. In 17th century Swedes controlled Gulf of Finland and Riga, which reduced Danish profits. Christian IV waited until Charles IX engaged himself in wars with the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and Moscow and then on April 4th 1611 he declared war on Sweden, which later became known as the Kalmar war. A month after the declaration Danish troops began the besiege of Kalmar and on May 27th took the city. Charles arrived to the northern borders of the city on June 9th. In the beginning of August the captain of Kalmar castle Christer Somme capitulated, thanks to which he avoided bloodshed. Few days later, Charles called Christian for duel, but the latter rejected (Charles was already 61 years old, while Christian was 27 years younger). During warfare, on October 30th, Charles died, leaving his 17-years old son Gustav II Adolph with wars on several fronts. In 1612 the main area of war oved to th western coast, close to nowadays Göteborg, and ended a year later.

The Kalmar war didn’t save neither the castle nor the city. The former suffered from Danish occupation and lost its summer residency. It was built by the order of Johan III in 1592 to replace another building, 40 years older. Around 1590 Johan ordered to renovate it and transform into a summer royal residence. Johan never managed to see the finished piece, because he died just before the construction works were finished.

this is how could look like a soldier from Christian IV army during the Kalmar war; equiped in a musket and a wooden box with extra gunpowder – when the latter was finished, the solider had to trust his sword

this is how could look like a soldier from Christian IV army during the Kalmar war; equiped in a musket and a wooden box with extra gunpowder – when the latter was finished, the solider had to trust his sword

Speaking about the city, Danes destroyed most of medieval buildings in Kalmar, which were located west of the castle. In 1640 the city council decided to move the city center towards east of the castle, to the part known today as Kvarholmen. In September of the same year fire broke out in the city, what revved up the relocation. The whole process took place between 1645 and 1658. At the same time, when the new city center was under construction, around it the defense wall was built, which is quite rare in Sweden. Kvarholmen is the center of Kalmar until today. There you can find four squares, the cathedral, the city hall and the county museum with famous wreck of Kronan.

Not only the city center was relocated, but also the church. To be precise, the city council decided to build a new church. The medieval one, called the Big Church or the Village Church, was located by the castle and in the middle of 17th century was pretty devastated. What we know about it is that it had three naves and many side chaples. During the relocation all that could be moved was taken: the church’s silvers, the puplit and three church bells.

About the church you can read here and now we face the opposite direction on the square.

The old city hall is located opposite to the cathedral, which was made in accordance with reneissance ideals. The building was designed by M.G. Craelius and was emerged between 1684 and 1690. He drawn the inspiration from the Netherland’s architecture. At the beginning, the building had a portico and tower and the roof. Both were destroyed in a fire in 1731. Initials of Charles XI are located on the facade. On the bottom floor is located the main city room, which also was used as a court room in 1970s. The basement served as an arrest.

the old city hall is located opposite to the cathedral on Stortorget

the old city hall is located opposite to the cathedral on Stortorget

From Stortorget you can head towards the coast and check out another building, which name is not the easiest to translate. Swedish name Klapphuset is combined from two words – a verb klappa, which means pet, pat or beat and a noun hus – house. Is does not mean, that we are visiting weird Swedish house of debauchery (although…?), but a city laundry room. What’s more, it’s used until today. The first building of this type emerged in Kalmar in the middle of 19th century, the one that we can see today stands there since 1900. It was said that doing your laundry in a semi salty water helped to preserve the colours and keep the fabrics in better condition.

Klapphuset by Norra Långgatan 90

Klapphuset by Norra Långgatan 90

On our way back to the center of Kvarholmen you can stop by the oldest house of Kalmar, which is a mansion that belonged to city’s mayor, Johan Eriksson Rosenlund. Its basement was ready in 1651, the whole building in 1658. Among its laters tenants were Nicodemus Tessin the Elder, Abraham Winants Svansköld, Caspar and Baltazar Georg Hoppenstedt and Herman Schröder.

One of the most famous romantic Swedish painters, Carl Wahlbom, was born in Kalmar. His house today is not the prettiest one. It was built in 1661 for the member of the city council, Olof Larsson Stur and it one of the oldest wooden buildings in Kalmar, still standing. Nowadays it is a private property.

Carl Wahlbom house, Västra Sjögatan 4

Carl Wahlbom house, Västra Sjögatan 4

Saddler Christian Castens and his wife Anna Hermansdotter began the construction of their house in 1667. Today it is the only building that has an original attic. Workshop and the shop were located at the bottom floor, the first floor contained living rooms, and the basement and the attic were used as a storey tooms. In Casten’s house there are still commerical activities.

Castenska gården, Storgatan 20

Castenska gården, Storgatan 20

The Kalmar city theatre stands on Kvarholem since 1863, its architect was Bror Carl Malmberg. After renovation in 1987 it was restored to its original appearance. Theatre was used as a hotel, dancing room, cinema and a circus. Today you can still dance there, but also obviously see a play and drink coffee.

the city theatre is located just by the entrance to Kvarholmen from the side of the railway station; Larmtorget 1

the city theatre is located just by the entrance to Kvarholmen from the side of the railway station; Larmtorget 1

The western gate was the main entrance gate to Kalmar up till the 19th century. Being inside the Kvarholmen borders you can see a water tower, that is outside of the wall. It is 65 meters tall, which makes it the tallest building in Kalmar. It was built between 1887 and 1900 and its architect was Hans Hedlund. Until 1910 the tower used water from surrounding wells and from Nybro spring until 1972, which is the last year of the tower activity. In 1983 is was rebuilt into block of flats.

the western gate and the water tower

the western gate and the water tower

To be updated you can follow me on: