Friday, December 08, 2006

Foresight, 18th-Century Style

Skokloster Slott, situated on Uppland's Lake Mälaren, near Stockholm, is one of Scandinavia's greatest examples of Baroque architecture and contains one of the largest art collections in Europe. The castle was begun by Carl Gustaf Wrangel, a high-ranking Swedish army officer, in the mid-17th century but construction was never completed. That it survived in tact, despite being uninhabited, is largely due to Wrangel's eldest daughter, Margareta Juliana Brahe, who stipulated upon her death in 1701 that the castle be maintained precisely as it had during her father's lifetime. Even the guns in the armory were to be kept polished and in working order. The castle and grounds are a time capsule of 17th century courtly life.

The castle was designated a national museum in 1967 and underwent a major restoration in the 1970s by Öve Hidemark, court architect to King Carl XVI Gustaf. Hidemark's revolutionary approach to the conservation of historic buildings became the foundation of Sweden's national preservation program.

Rooms are furnished with elaborate textiles, Dutch gilded-leather tapestries, 17th and 18th century furniture, and old master paintings. An intricately painted library on the top floor houses thousands of rare books and maps. There is also an armory and the massive, unfinished banqueting hall, set just as it was in 1676 - bare floors and work tables laden with tools - upon word of Wrangel's death.

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