Beneath the present Christiansborg Palace lie the ruins of Bishop Absalon’s Castle and Copenhagen Castle.
In 1902 archaeologists discovered the remains of the Blue Tower, and in 1907 workmen were surprised to also discover the ruins of Absalon’s Castle while carrying out excavation work for the foundations of the new large castle, the third Christiansborg. The National Museum’s experts were called in, and the ruins, which lie beneath the inner palace courtyard, were uncovered. There was enormous public interest in the ruins, and it was therefore decided that they should not just be covered up again, but preserved for posterity. The reinforced concrete structure that was built in 1908 to cover over the ruins was the largest in Denmark at the time.
The ruins, which are underneath the castle square, were excavated in 1917. Thy have been open to the public since 1924. The Ruins Exhibition was renovated in the period 1974-1977 and remained essentially unchanged until the Palaces and Properties Agency opened the present exhibition on 20 May 2006.
According to Saxo, in 1167 Bishop Absalon of Roskilde built a castle on a small island outside the small town of Havn. The castle was surrounded by a curtain wall made of limestone from Stevns Cliffs. The remains of this curtain wall are preserved in the ruins, from which it can be seen how it was constructed. From Absalon’s castle, the foundations of some houses that lay within the curtain wall and a well have been preserved. When excavated, the well, a so-called ‘hulk well’ made from hollowed out oak trunks, contained several marble building fragments, which are thought to originate from a church within the bishop’s castle.
Absalon’s castle stood for 200 years, and in the ruins it is possible to follow how the castle’s owners developed and renewed it. The castle was frequently under attack, for example by Wend pirates and the Hanseatic cities, and in both 1249 and 1259 it was taken and plundered.
In 1369 the castle was again taken, this time by Valdemar Atterdag’s enemies from the Hansa League. The castle had long been a great nuisance to the Hanseatic cities’ trade in the Sound, so they sent stonemasons to demolish the castle stone by stone. As Denmark still had considerable interests to defend in the area, a new castle was soon built on the site:
The new castle had a curtain wall and was surrounded by a moat with a large solid tower as an entranceway. The castle remained the property of the Bishop of Roskilde, but King Erik of Pomerania usurped the rights to the castle in 1417. From then on the castle in Copenhagen was owned by the king.
Copenhagen Castle was rebuilt many times. Among other things, Christian IV added a spire to the large entrance tower, the Blue Tower, which became known as a prison tower. In the 1720s Frederik IV completely rebuilt the castle, but it became so heavy that the walls began to give way and crack. It was therefore evident to Frederik IV’s successor, Christian VI, that a completely new castle should be built. In 1731 work began on demolishing Copenhagen Castle to make room for the first Christiansborg.
See the opening hours of the Ruins here.Last updated:: Tuesday, March 26, 2013