Friday, March 13, 2015

The Vasa Museum, Stockholm

The Vasa is the only preserved seventeenth-century ship in the world, and a unique art treasure. More than 95 percent of the ship is original, and it is decorated with hundreds of carved sculptures.

The 69 meter-long warship Vasa sank on its maiden voyage in the middle of Stockholm in 1628. The reason why the ship sank in its maiden voyage was due to the lack of stability. The underwater part of the hull was too small and the ballast insufficient in relation to the rig and cannon. It was believed that the ship was well built but incorrectly proportioned.

Over time her location was forgotten, but in the 1920s a group of divers applied for permission to blow up the wreck and salvage the black oak timbers. During the 1950s, a private researcher, Anders Franzen, began to search for her. He knew that wooden ships are preserved in the brackish water of the Baltic. In more salty water, wood is rapidly destroyed by the shipworm, Teredo navalis.

The Vasa was finally salvaged 333 years later in 1961. For nearly half a century the ship has been slowly, deliberately and painstakingly restored to a state approaching its original glory. The three masts on the roof outside the specially built museum show the height of the ship's original masts. Today the Vasa Museum is the most visited museum in Scandinavia, with over one million visitors a year. There are ten different exhibitions around the ship to tell about life on board the ship.

On the ship one finds the national coats of arms, Sweden’s symbol. The lions have featured since the 13th century. The three crowns symbolise the Three Holy Kings. The central shield bears the arms of the Vasa family, a sheaf of corn (‘vase’ in old Swedish). The crown emphasises the royal status of the dynasty.  

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