The building of Castles and the administration of Sweden

The building of Castles and the administration of Sweden

By B. Fritz

Srednie Veka: Studies on Medieval and Early Modern History, Vol.59 (1996)

Kalmar Castle in Sweden

Introduction: Throughout Sweden the King began to build castles on the basis of foreign models in the middle of the 13th century. It is about the new art of castle building under Anglo-Norman and German influence.

You find a square or rectangular plan, massive stone walls, flanking towers and an outer and inner bailey. Prior to the castle there was often an old tower, a keep. The houses, now connected with the walls, were dwelling-houses for the the garrison and its commander and lodgings, for the king, queen and other residents. Within the walls there were also halftimbered houses and wooden huts etc.  The castle was a fortificatory unit, always strategically placed and often surrounded with water or, if not, with ditches and moats and wooden palisades; the bridge could be drawn up.

To this type of castle belong some fortresses in the Novgorod area in Northern Russia, such as Oreschek at Neva (Noteborg/Schlusselborg) and Koporje (Kaksisalmi/Keksholm).

The possession of these citadel-type fortresses became imperative for the control of the Swedish country. There were also the possibility of danger from within the state and the fortresses protected the growing trade, especially the export of copper and iron from Central Sweden, and the many towns, founded in the same period.

Instead of naval warfare and an army raised as an obligation of land tenure in different districts all over the country, as earlier, there were now the heavily-armed warriors on horseback. The new castles served both as garrisons for such an armoured cavalry and as residence for the ambulatory court. As a consequence the castles replaced the royal manors as the most important centers of local administration.

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