Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Vadstena Castle

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Vadstena Castle (Vadstena slott) in the county of Östergötland is a former Royal Castle, originally built by King Gustav I (Gustav Vasa) in 1545 as a fortress to protect Stockholm from enemies approaching from the south.

The reconstruction from fortress into a habitable castle began in the 1550s, when King Gustav’s son prince Magnus became Duke of Östergötland. Magnus died in 1595 and is buried in the church of Vadstena Abbey.

In 1552, King Gustav I married his third wife in Vadstena - Katarina Stenbock from Torpa in Västergötland. (I blogged about a visit to Torpa Castle back in 2012.) The marriage took place in the chapel of the Vadstena Abbey and was followed the next day by the coronation of Katarina as Queen.

By 1620, when Vadstena castle was completed, all the kings of the House of Vasa had contributed to its construction. Since then, the castle has been very well preserved, and is one of Sweden's best examples of Renaissance architecture. The original ramparts of the fortress were torn down in the 19th century, though, and the present ramparts were finished as late as in 1999.

Since 1899, the castle has housed the Provincial Archives, and nowadays also a Castle Museum. The castle is also the seat of the International Vadstena Academy, Sweden's smallest opera house. In summer, there are concerts given in the courtyard of both classical and pop music.


We did not go on a guided tour, and did not go inside the castle – only around it, and into the courtyard.

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Harbour warehouses in old style opposite the castle.

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The little people give you an idea of how big the castle is!

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Even though we didn’t join the tour, I managed to sneak a shot of this guide in period costume.

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The castle (Vadstena slott) is the orange square island in the bottom left corner of the map.

Next: From there, we followed the walkway along the lake, up to the Abbey (kloster) area in the upper right corner.


Our World Tuesday


Monday, August 14, 2017

A Ramble Around Vadstena

Vadstena received its city privileges in 1400, and for historical reasons is still counted as a city (despite its modest population of only around 7300 people).

Vadstena is primarily famous for two important pieces of Swedish history:

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1/ It was in Vadstena, in 1350, that Saint Bridget of Sweden founded the first monastery of her Bridgettine Order. The huge abbey church, known as Vadstena Abbey, the Abbey of Our Lady and of St. Bridget, or The Blue Church, is still standing, and is visited by both Lutheran and Roman Catholic pilgrims (and tourists). Within the church, some relics of St. Bridget are still kept; as well as medieval sculptures of Saint Bridget, and Saint Anne and the Blessed Virgin Mary, and other medieval art. There is now also a monastery museum close by, showing a variety of scenes and items from the convent/monastery back in medeival days. 


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2/ Vadstena Castle is one of Sweden’s best-preserved castles from the era of king Gustav Vasa in the 16th century (during whose reign Sweden became Protestant).


We’ll get back to both the castle and the abbey in later posts (because I have sooo many photos). But let’s start with a ramble in the town centre.

The first thing we wanted to find in Vadstena was lunch. And we did – here. (We ate inside, but this outdoors terrace with its flowers was very pretty.)

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After lunch, we felt ready to get on with the touristing again.

We walked up and down some random streets in the town centre, in hope of getting some kind of orientation of the place…

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This may look like a church, but it’s the 15th-century town hall (the oldest in Sweden).

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The sign above the door says Apotek = Chemist’s / Pharmacy. Whether it has always been one, I don’t know. But it seems to be an active one now.

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These small wooden cottages seemed to belong to a museum.

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The museum wasn’t open, but I liked the door and sign!


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After having randomly rambled up and down various cobbled streets lined with pretty houses,  we still didn’t really know in which direction we ought to be going, so decided to go back to the car and try to find parking somewhere a bit closer to the castle, before we continued our explorations. (At least with a huge castle, you know where you are – so to speak…)

Another way to get around town might have been this little train – but we didn’t try that. It’s name is Hjulius, which is funny in Swedish, because of one of those untranslateable puns. (The name Julius spelled with Hj makes it refer to hjul=wheel.)

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Train of thought to be continued… Winking smile


Through My Lens

Through My Lens 107



Sunday, August 13, 2017

Alvastra Abbey Ruins

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Alvastra Abbey was a Cistercian monastery located at Alvastra in Östergötland, Sweden. It was founded in the first half of the 12th century by a donation of land to the Cistercian Order from King Sverker I of Sweden (king of Sweden ~ 1132-1156) .

From Clairvaux in France, the monks brought modern methods of administration, technology and architecture. The district around Alvastra played an important role in the development of the Swedish Kingdom during the Middle Ages.

The church was the heart of the vast monastery establishment. The building material is limestone from Omberg, and the architecture is simple, in accordance with the order's decree against extravagancies. French masters, with the assistance of people from nearby, erected the structure.

Alvastra was Sweden's largest monastery in its heyday, and it flourished for nearly 400 years. But with the Protestant reformation in the 1500s it was dissolved, and the Crown retracted the land. The construction materials were used in the making of Vadstena Castle (we’ll get there in a future post) and Per Brahe's buildings along Lake Vättern (you’ve already seen the ruin of one of those - Brahehus).

The ruins were excavated and restored in several phases in the 1900s.

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Linking to Shadow Shot Sunday 2

Shadow Shot Sunday 2

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Heda Church

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Heda church and village is situated north of Ödeshög, Östergötland. The oldest parts of the church probably date back to the mid 12th century.

This church wasn’t on my list of “things to see” on this trip – I’d never heard of it. We just happened to see it as we drove through the village; and as it seemed really old and unusual in its shape and structure, we decided to stop and have a closer look. It was Friday, before noon, and we did not expect the church to be open – but it was. Taking the time to also have a good look around inside proved well worth while. Many of the sculptures and other objects in the church date back to medeival times.

The Church of Sweden was Catholic until the Reformation in the 16th century, during the reign of King Gustav Vasa (Gustav I). The New Testament was translated to Swedish in 1526 and the entire Bible in 1541. The final breach with the Catholic Church was made in 1544. However, the changes were not as drastic as in Germany; in many Swedish Lutheran churches there are still artifacts from Catholic times, such as crosses, crucifixes and icons.

Over the centuries, Heda church has been through several reconstructions. In the 18th and 19th century, it was discussed more than once to tear down the old church completely and build a new one. However, some people argued that the medeival parts of the church should be preserved out of historic interest; and in the end (the mid 1800s) that was the decision, and the church was once again just added to, rather than replaced by a new building. Which gives it the rather unique exterior that it has today.

In 1950 when the church was restored once again, they tried to preserve as much as possible of the original medeival atmosphere inside.

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View over nearby fields, from the back of the graveyard surrounding the church.

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The altar piece was put up in 1950, but the sculptures in it are all medeival. Six of the them are apostles, and the seventh is of God the Father on his Mercy Seat.

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The organ was originally built in 1776, but was moved to a new gallery in 1950.

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Baptismal fonts

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From a brochure I bought in the church, I learn that the medeival sculptures were not originally painted in such bright colours as they are now. Those colours were added to some of the sculptures in the 1600s (when that was the “fashion”). The fabric on display in the glass case is a woven wall hanging from the late 1400s.

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Medeival Virgin & Child wooden sculptures. The one on the right is from the mid 12th century, the other two are from the 15th century.

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Coats of arms (representing important families of the neighbourhood)


InSPIREd Sunday

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