Saturday, February 21, 2015

Riddarholmen – the historical nucleus of Stockholm

Riddarholmen is the historical nucleus of the Swedish capital, with buildings from several epochs. The oldest is Riddarholm Church, which was inaugurated around the year 1300 as part of a monastery. The monastery was founded by the Franciscan order around 1270 on land donated by King Magnus Ladulas. The king chose the church for his last resting place and was buried there after his death in 1290. Magnus Ladulas was son of Birger Jarl who is thought to have founded Stockholm in the 1250s. From 1634 and up to 1950, Riddalholm Church was the royal burial site.

In 1527, during the reign of King Gustav Vasa, the Reformation took place in Sweden. It led to the Crown confiscating the Church and the monastic property, in order to break the power of the Church and raise funds for defences. On the west side of the island two cannon turrets and a middle wall were built. The turrets are preserved in the lower levels of Birger Jarl’s Tower and in the south tower of the Wrangelska Palace.

In the 17th century, Sweden grew into a great power and Stockholm’s urban environment was modernised. The Crown donated building land to the higher nobility, who in the 1630s and 40s built palaces in contemporary Renaissance style. In the latter half of the 17th century, conversions and extensions were carried out in imposing Baroque style. Some of the era’s leading architects were hired. Jean de la Vallee and Nicodemus Tessin the Elder designed the Wrangelska Palace. After the castle fire of 1697, the palace remained the royal residence for 57 years.

In the 18th century, the Crown began to take over the palaces. They were made state administration buildings and seats of Sweden’s supreme legal institutions. In the 19th century and up until about 1950, Riddarholmen was also a point off entry for shipping on Lake Malaren. 

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