Denmark in western Europe is one of our homeschool countries-of-the-week, so why not spend a few minutes today learning about one of Denmark’s World Heritage Sites: Kronborg Castle, the castle “Elsinore” of Shakespeare’s play Hamlet.
Kronborg Castle, like the ancient city of Troy, overlooks a narrow strait that is the main point of access to a vast inland sea. It is one of the most important strategic sites in northern Europe, and so provided an ideal setting for Shakespeare’s tale of royal intrigue, Hamlet, Prince of Denmark:
Kronborg Castle is located north of Elsinore on a strategically important site commanding the Sound (Øresund), a narrow stretch of water between Denmark and Sweden. From the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries, Kronborg Castle played a key role in the history of Northern Europe.
The Sound is the gateway to the Baltic Sea and from 1429 to 1857, Denmark controlled this passage thanks to Kronborg Castle, positioned at the narrowest part of the Sound, which is only four kilometres wide. Around 1.8 million ships passed through the Sound during this period and all of them had to pay a toll at Kronborg Castle. For this reason Kronborg Castle and its fortress became a symbol of Denmark’s power. The Sound toll was not just a source of income; it was also a political instrument. By favouring the shipping trade of selected nations or by allowing their navies free passage, Denmark was in a position to create important alliances. The control of the Sound was essential and it became an important issue in the motives and courses of several wars. For this reason Kronborg Castle was of great significance, not just for Denmark, but for all major seafaring nations.
In the 1420s, Eric of Pomerania built the first castle, the ”Krogen,” on this unique site. Remnants of the old walls can still be seen at the castle today. In 1574 King Frederik II began the construction of the outstanding Renaissance castle and the surrounding fortifications, which would eventually be known as Kronborg Castle. Following the disastrous fire of 1629 the castle was reconstructed almost exactly as it was before. The Chapel, which was the only building not to have been ravaged by the fire, has preserved its original altar, gallery, and pews, with fine carvings and painted panels.
The castle itself is a Renaissance building with four wings surrounding a spacious courtyard. The bright sandstone facades are characterized by horizontal bands and the front walls are balanced by towers and spires. The castle is extensively and richly decorated with sandstone ornaments in unique and imaginative designs. The Great Hall (the banqueting hall) is one of the most exquisite rooms from this time — and the largest of its kind in Northern Europe. Kronborg Castle is also world famous as the setting of Shakespeare’s Hamlet.
Kronborg Castle was admired for its beauty as a castle and feared for its strength as a fortress. The castle was protected by tall ramparts and strong angular bastions. The overall impression of Kronborg Castle is closely associated with its architecture and location, which stress the castle’s symbolic, commercial, and strategic importance. (World Heritage Centre #696)
You can find a gallery of additional photos of Kronborg Castle on the World Heritage Centre’s website.
World Heritage Sites are cultural or natural landmarks of international significance, selected for recognition by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. More than 1000 such sites have been recognized in over 160 countries, and we feature one every Wednesday, drawn from one of our homeschool countries-of-the-week. You can find a complete list of World Heritage Sites online at the World Heritage Centre and in Wikipedia.
The World Heritage Centre also has a free and comprehensive World Heritage education kit for teachers, as well as a wonderful full-color wall map of World Heritage Sites, available for the cost of shipping. Why not add them both to your own homeschool library. 🗺
What world treasures have you been exploring in your homeschool this Cygnus Term? 😊
❡ Books in the running brooks: You can always turn to your River Houses almanac, atlas, and history encyclopedia for more information about any of our countries-of-the-week. The almanac has profiles of all the nations of the world on pages 752–859; the endpapers of the atlas are indexes that will show you where all of the individual national and regional maps may be found; the history encyclopedia includes national histories on pages 489–599; and you can find additional illustrations, flags, and other mentions through the indexes in each of these volumes. For an ideal little lesson, just write the name of the Weekly World Heritage Site on your homeschool bulletin board, find its location in your atlas, read the WHC’s brief description aloud, look at a picture or two, and you’re done. Over the course of the year, without even realizing it, your students will absorb a wealth of new historical, geographical, and cultural information. 🇩🇰
❡ The great globe itself: This is one of our regular Homeschool States & Countries posts featuring historical and natural sites of international importance. Download a copy of our River Houses World Heritage Calendar and follow along with us as we tour the planet, and add your name to our weekly mailing list to get great homeschool teaching ideas delivered right to your mailbox all through the year. 🌍