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Kalmar Castle History

The beginning of Kalmar Castle is linked with constructing a watch tower which appeared by the end of the 12th century in the place where the city of Kalmar is located today. At that time plunders by pirates from Karelia and Finland were common so a tower with a high wooden palisade was built for a defence against them. In the 13th century Kalmar was in its heyday as a trade city, rich merchants from Hanse and Lübeck did business there. Kalmar's town seal that made important trade and political agreements legally enforceable dates from 1255-67 and is the oldest seal of Scandinavian countries.

At that time on the order of King Magnus Birgersson Ladulas a construction of huge stone towers and fortifications that could defend the town began. It took more than twenty years to fortify Kalmar Castle. Finally, around 1300, it became the grandest stronghold of the whole Scandinavia.

At the end of the 14th century an event of great political significance for three countries, Denmark, Sweden and Norway, took place in Kalmar Castle. On 20 July 1397 in the presence of the greatest figures Denmark's Queen Margaret announced the Kalmar Union under which the said countries were united under the rule of one king, keeping the right to have their own governments and separate laws. The alliance of the three countries lasted over 120 years and their representatives met many times in the castle in Kalmar to discuss and solve out important issues. In the 16th century when Sweden was ruled by the members of the House of Vasa, Kalmar Castle was fortified and converted many times since it was an important defensive point in the country. There were times when the scale and the range of work were so impressive that the royal treasury did not have enough funds to cover the expenses. Apart from new bastions and defensive towers, buildings in the Renaissance style according to plans by architect Richter of Freiberg, who supervised the work, gradually started to appear in the medieval castle.

During the Kalmar War between Denmark and Sweden in 1611 the city of Kalmar was taken and plundered but the castle did not surrender to the enemy. However, bribing the commander of Kalmar who had been tempted by a financial bribe and promises of taking possession of lands in Prussia allowed the Danes to seize the stronghold. It was not until several years after concluding the Kalmar peace that Gustav II Adolf restored and rebuilt the castle. In the 1670s when peace treaties were broken another time between Denmark and Sweden, Kalmar Castle was in the centre of military actions again. The castle had been besieged a few times and experienced more than twenty attacks for several years. However, it survived these attempts honourably.

After the Danish-Swedish border changed, Kalmar Castle lost its position of an inaccessible fortress, and the rulers of that time did not take into account converting this six hundred-year-old building into a royal residence. Charles XI was the last monarch residing in this castle, next members of royal families visited the castle very rarely. In the 18th century dungeons were built behind the castle's walls and the whole was adapted to warehouses. In 1852 a new prison was established in Kalmar Castle, also a decision was made to establish a National Museum in the castle. By the end of the 19th century Sweden's Parliament gave funds and a reconstruction of the castle began to a great scale.