Kalmar Castle (Swedish: Kalmar slott) is one of the most significant creations of Northern European fortification art of the Renaissance. The castle is located in the small town of Kalmar in the province Småland on the southern coast of Sweden.
The first fortifications in Kalmar were established in the end of 12th century, with the construction of a round tower for shelter, defense against pirates and lookout. At that time, there was also constructed a harbor. It is believed that the city of Kalmar reached its flourishing in the 13th century, largely due to the rich merchants of Lübeck and the Hanseatic League. The oldest city’s seal of Kalmar dates from the period of 1255 to 1267 years, making it the oldest known city’s seal in Scandinavia.
The construction of more powerful fortifications began in 1280's at the behest of the King Magnus III Ladulås of Sweden (reigned from 1275 until 1290). During this period, there were built a new fortress with a curtain wall, round corner towers and two square gatehouses surrounding the original tower. Located near the site of Kalmar's medieval harbor, it has played a crucial part in Swedish history since its initial construction as a fortified tower in the 12th century.
Due to its favorable location, the Kalmar castle was also a frequent meeting place for politicians of the time. For example, in 1266 Birger Jarl, the owner of the castle, his sons, and many religious and secular parties have taken the papal legate, Cardinal Guido. During this meeting was addressed the issue of the status of the Swedish church lands and public affairs.
November 10, 1276, in the castle, King Magnus III Ladulås held a wedding ceremony. His choice was Helvig av Holstein. The reign of King Magnus III was characterized by the rise of the nation, which allowed to realize such an ambitious project. Despite this, all works were completed only about 1300 in the reign of Tyrgyl Knutsson.
Following completion of the construction of fortifications Kalmar became one of the most protected places not only in Sweden, but in the whole of Scandinavia.
Usually, medieval fortifications often were reconstructed to meet the tastes of the new owners, and Kalmar Castle was no exception. Despite this the walls of the courtyard and the tower remained unchanged for centuries.
In 1359, Bo Jonsson Grip became Lord-Constable of Kalmar Castle. He had close ties with the King Magnus Eriksson (King Magnus IV was king of Sweden from 1319 until 1364) and had a lot of power in the kingdom.
In 1397, at the castle of Kalmar, Queen Margaret of Denmark and Norway (daughter of Valdemar Atterdag and the widow of the Norwegian King Haakon VI) had gathered the most distinguished nobles from all three Scandinavian countries: Denmark, Sweden and Norway (Finland, then was part of Sweden).
July 13, 1397, the Kalmar Union treaty was signed, under which the Scandinavian countries were ruled by one king, and the single strategy was carried out in foreign policy.
A month earlier, on 17th June 1397, in the castle, the son of the daughter of Queen Margaret, fifteen year old Erik av Pommern was proclaimed the first king of the three Scandinavian countries.
The Kalmar Union treaty was destined to last for more than 120 years (until 1523), although initially it was not designed as a tightly knit monoliths. In particular, in this treaty was stated that "each of the three kingdoms... will be governed by their own laws."The actual power was in the hands of Margaret I, until her death. She reigned in the Union even when, as in 1401, Eric VII became an adult. Kalmar Castle itself was a meeting place of politicians of the union.
The full reconstruction of the castle was not completed because of shortage of money in the treasury. However, due to reconstruction works, in 1543, the defenders of the castle managed to repel the rebel attack led by Nils Dacke.
In 1542, people's revolt in the province of Småland arose after the proclamation of Lutheranism in Sweden and ban trade with Denmark. After the unsuccessful assault on the Kalmar Castle, in August 1543, the rebels were defeated by the armies of Gustav Vasa in the village of Blikenge. Nils Dacke was killed. The siege of the castle by the rebels during the Dacke War («Dackefejd») showed weaknesses in the defense. Therefore, the strengthening of the citadel was continued on a large scale.
Later, during the reign of Erik XIV (reigned from 1560 until 1568) and Johan III (rules from 1568 until 1592) the castle was extended and rebuilt in the Renaissance style. In the east and south of the fortifications were rebuilt, on the east side, two new gun turrets were constructed.
In 1602, Kalmar city became a diocese, a position it held until 1903.
During the so-called Kalmar War in 1611-1613 years, the castle was repeatedly besieged. May 8, 1611 to the walls of the castle came the Danish army of 6,000 men, led by King Christian IV. May 27, 1611, the Kalmar city was in the hands of the Danes and totally looted, but the castle was impregnable. Seeing such destruction, King Carl IX, July 11, went to help the castle with an army of 12,000 men. It seemed that Danes could oppose nothing to the Swedish army, and the German generals in the army of Christian IV fell into despair, but the Danish fleet came to help.
After lengthy negotiations with the commandant of Kalmar Krister Soma, August 4, 1611, the castle was handed to Danes for the plot of land in Holstein and the money reward.
Kalmar Castle was returned under the control of Sweden only during the reign of Gustav II Adolf. During his reign, the castle was restored, and in 1658, the city o f Kalmar was transfered move away from the castle to Kvarnholmen. The new, fortified town was planned after the current renaissance ideals. According to this pattern were placed church and town hall across from each other at a major square Stortorget Kalmar. The cathedral was built, designed by Nicodemus Tessin the Elder and is one of the foremost examples of barockklassicismens breakthrough in Sweden.
In 1642, a fire destroyed the east wing of the castle, very damaging Great East Hall, the largest in the castle, more than 400 m, which served as a venue for banquets.
Under the terms of peace treaty, signed in Roskilde in 1658, Denmark border retreated further from Kalmar, and the castle temporarily lost its military significance. But, as it was often at that time, already in 1672-1678 years, the peace treaty was violated. During this period, Kalmar Castle was constantly under siege. There were about 22 attacks of the castle, but it was never taken.
After the border of Sweden was moved to Öresund Strait, Kalmar Castle began to decline. In 17-18 centuries royals only occasionally visited the castle. King Charles XI (reigned from 1673 until 1692) was the last royal, who lived in the castle.
During the 18th century, in the castle, was a prison and grain warehouse, and during the reign of Gustav III, there was arranged distillery plant. The plant was not profitable and was closed in 1787.
Today, it is one of Sweden's best preserved renaissance castles and is open to the public.