Bergkvara Castle Ruin

Bergkvara Castle Ruin
The castle ruins at Bergkvara Lake, 1940. Photo: Mårten Sjöbeck / Swedish National Heritage Board

The ruins of one of the largest estates in the Nordic countries, which by the early 16th century had 1,500 farms under it, and the scene of the first major power struggle during the Dackefejden in July 1542.

Bergkvara castle ruin, located on a small island in Bergkvarasjön 6 kilometres west of Växjö in Värend, Småland, is an old manor house built in the 1470s. Bergkvara is one of the largest estates in the Nordic countries, and is located in Bergunda parish in the Kinnevald district, not far from the then border with Denmark.

Bergkvara aerial view
Photo: aerial photo, 1997, Jan Norman / Riksantikvarieämbetet

Bergkvara is mentioned in written sources for the first time in the middle of the 14th century when the squire Magnus Håkansson (Bergkvaraätten) wrote here, but at that time Bergkvara was only a village. In the early 15th century, Bergkvara passed to the Trolle dynasty, and it was Arvid Birgersson Trolle who built the stone house in the 1470s after the seat was burnt down in connection with the Union battles of 1467 and 1469.

The castle, which is 20×15 metres with 1.6 metre thick walls, originally had six or seven storeys and four hanging towers and was surrounded by a moat.

Bergkvara Castle according to Sueciaverket
Bergkvara castle towards the end of the 17th century, according to Sueciaverket
- History of Sweden, 1889.

At the time of the Dackefejden 1542 the castle was inhabited by a Ture Trolle, who already in the winter of 1527 had fallen into disfavour with the commoners after a thing in Allbo härad in Aringsås, where he in his capacity as county receiver and the king's troman negotiated with the peasants about a new extra tax that King Gustav Vasa had imposed and which according to docent Lars-Olof Larsson (in Dackeland) has been met with open hostility and harsh words:

"On his way home through the forests between Aringsås and Bergkvara he was hit by a crossbow arrow. A lively traditional story claims that the shooter was Sven Stärt, who accompanied the projectile with the words: 'It sent the Strength to you'."

Lars-Olof Larsson writes how the bailiffs Jon Andersson and Nils Dacke tried to raise the commoners in this border area in the winter of 1538, but through Ture Trole's "resolute intervention" it could be prevented for that time. It would be another 4 years before Nils Dacke managed to ignite the spark.

During a few dramatic summer days in July 1542, the first major military showdown of the Dackefejden took place around Bergkvara. Ture Trolle had 400 men to defend the castle, while Lars-Olof Larsson estimates the allmogens' strength at just over 2,000 men from Konga, Uppvidinge and parts of Kinnevald and Södra Möre. I the battle of Örsled the peasants clashed with Trolles soldiers around the bridge at Örsled, just over 550 metres as the crow flies from the castle, and after heavy losses they emerged victorious. A truce was negotiated on 24 July 1542, which was to last until 1 November. Gustav Vasa later broke the agreement.

The inside of Bergkvara ruin
Photo: Bengt A Lundberg / Riksantikvarieämbetet (CC BY)

According to the Nordic Family Book (1904), the castle was besieged and destroyed during the Dackefejden, only to be left to decay. However, Lars-Olof Larsson dismisses this as uncertain rumours, and says that the only thing known for sure is that the castle's wife Magdalena Gyllenstierna, who was married to Ture Trolle, was forced to pay a fire tax to Dacke in the autumn of 1542 and that the farm's finance house was visited by robbers.

After the Dacke Rebellion, Bergkvara Castle lost its former role. Bergkvara County was withdrawn to the Crown, which according to Lars-Olof Larsson instead "let Kronoberg develop into a stronghold for a centrally directed bailiff".

Bergkvara castle described according to Slottsguiden at the end of the 17th century as dilapidated, "although until 1732 the old castle had a copper roof. When General Carl von Otter (1696-1763) bought Bergkvara in 1732 for 45,000 daler silver coins, he took the roof down and then used the copper sheet to pay the full purchase price. A stone's throw away from the old castle, he then had three new houses built, replacing the old seat farm.

After a fire in 1777, his son, Salomon Otter, had the wing buildings that still remain built, and in 1794 the present main building was erected by Arvid Erik Posse (†1825). Without its roof, however, the old castle was quickly destroyed and in 1746 the roof truss and most of the hanging towers were blown down."

Bergkvara ruin on the map

Bergkvara was visited 9 May 1749 by Carl Linnaeus, who has described the visit in his "Skånska resa":

"The old stone house in Bergkvara still stood to its walls for a spectacle and an antique. It was built square like a bottle cage, 40 cubits high, 34 long, 24 wide. It was built of cobblestones.

The bottom floor consisted of arches to the basement. The second floor had been a warehouse and a storehouse, the third floor a kitchen, pantries and similar rooms. The 4th floor had been real rooms. The entrance or door to the house was on the north side in the middle of the wall or in the 3rd floor, to which one ascended on a loose staircase, which stood outside the house, which could be raised at will. This mode of building, and curiously with the door in the middle of the wall, is quite consistent with the stone house on southern Gottland, which I have described in Gottlandsresan pag. 263, 254, from which antiquarii may infer the age of this house.

On the east side, down by the foundation, was a rather small entrance or passage to the house, which had formerly been provided with an iron door and strong booms, by which people could enter the lower floor or cellars. A small embankment had fortified this house all round, which, moreover, was enclosed on the south and east sides by the lake, and on the others by double tombs. This house is reproduced in Dahlberg's Suecia antiqua & nova.

No one here knew when this was first built, but it is known that the Marshal of the Realm Lars Siggeson Sparre, knight of Sundby, was a bridegroom to Thure Trolles daughter Britta at Bergkvara in 1536, and he gave her in the morning gift 16,000 pounds of silver and 100 gold. From them was born Eric Sparre, who later became chancellor and unfortunate in Linköping under King Charles IX in 1600 on March 19. So Bergkvara has been a Trollegods. This house was besieged twice by the Dack."

In 1784, Bergkvara estate was transferred to the Posse noble family, who still own the property today.

Sources

Lars-Olof Larsson, Dackeland, 1979

Bergkvara i Nordic Family Book (second edition, 1904)

Castles and manor houses in Sweden, Småland, Öland and Gotland

Carl Linnaeus, Carl Linnaeus' journey to Skåne in 1749, 9 May

Christian Lovén, Castles and fortifications in medieval Sweden

Fredric Bedoire, Swedish castles and manors

Martin Hansson, Medieval Småland - An archaeological guide, s. 67.

The National Heritage Board, Bergunda 32:1

The National Heritage Board, Architectural archaeological survey of Bergkvara stone house

Getting there

Type "Bergkvara, 355 93 Växjö" or "Bergkvara castle" into Google Maps and let the driving directions lead you there!

Coordinates: Latitude 56.8676846 | Longitude 14.724254599999995

Discover more interesting places to visit at History map.

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