The Great Castle of Kronborg : Hamlet’s home

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Considered by the UNESCO an outstanding world value, in 2000 The Castle of Kronborg was  included on the World Heritage List  and it could be said that it is one of the most dramatic and legendary castles in History.

The Royal Castle of Kronborg was built during the Renaissance and its construction finished in 1574. However, its wholes and defences were reforced many times, in order to adapt to the military models of the late 17th century, and thanks to this, it has remained intact to the present day.The castle  is located in the north of the Danish city of Elsinore (Helsingør), in a strategical site, the stretch of water between Denmark and Sweden called Sound (Øresund). In spite of being named by King Frederik II in 1577, its origin goes back to the past, when Erik of Pomerania started to build a strong fortification called “Krogen”  (“The Hook”).  King Frederik’s work just was a renovation of the previous building, nevertheless it was quite a hard task.  

As mentioned before, the castle itself is a Renaissance building with four wings surrounding a spacious courtyard. The bright sandstone facades are characterized by horizontal bands and the front walls are balanced by towers and spires. The castle is extensively and richly decorated with sandstone ornaments in unique and imaginative designs. The Great Hall (the banqueting hall) is one of the most exquisite rooms from this time – and the largest of its kind in Northern Europe. In addition, after the disastrous fire of 1629, the castle was reconstructed almost exactly as it was before.The only building which was not ravaged by fire was the chapel, whose altar, gallery and pews with fine carvings and painted panels have  been preserved intact. 

Since its construction, it became a  place with a key role in the history of Northern Europe. This is due to the fact that the Sound is the gateway to the Baltic Sea, and therefore, from 1429 to 1857, Denmark had the power to establish a control to the passage (thanks to the position of the Kronborg Castle).Around 1.8 million ships passed through the Sound and they had to pay a toll at Kronborg Castle. Due to this control of the maritime exchange,Kronborg became, not only a true symbol of  Denmark’s power, but also a useful instrument to establish important alliances and a relevant issue in courses of several wars. That is why the fortification had a great significance  for all seafaring nations.

Nevertheless, its  relevance refers not only to the political and economic power,or to his impressive structure,  but also to the great myth built around and inside its wholes.  The Castle of Kronborg is known all over the world as Elsinore castle, the setting of Shakespeare’s most famous tragedies, Hamlet.

Hamlet’s figured appeared about 800 years ago, in a legend collected by Saxo Grammaticus (famous Danish medieval historian and writer) in his Gesta Danorum (History of Danes). Then, the legend was taken up again in 1514, by Christiern Pedersen (Danish humanist and writer from the Renaissance). He published a story about “Amleth”, which made the drama quite famous outside Denmark.

Moreover, around the 1500 too, a french version of the legend appeared , written by the author François de Belleforest (French author, poet and translator from the Renaissance). Then, in 1590, when the English dramaturge  Thomas Kyd interpreted his work, he transformed it into a drama of revenge.  

After many researches, apparently Shakespeare took from Kyd´s work the inspiration to write the play The Tragical History of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, around 1600, making the ancient legend almost immortal.

So, all its glorious past joined to the legend that surrounds its tall wholes, make this great fortification an incredible wonder, which  is really worth seeing before dying.

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