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Big donation makes dream come true - now Viking castle must be recreated

A donation of DKK 15 million means that the fortifications at the large Viking castle at Slagelse can be partially restored.

Skrevet af Jacob Olling - Tv øst 

Exterior fortifications, a deep moat and then an eight meter high, almost vertical wooden wall built over a massive earthen wall of turf.
It has been impressive, and soon visitors to the Viking castle Trelleborg can have the same experience as visitors back in the year 981.

A donation from the Augustinus Foundation of as much as DKK 15 million ensures that the work of restoring about a quarter of the castle can now begin.

- Trelleborg is a unique memorial from the Viking Age. Therefore, we are very happy that the Augustinus Foundation shares our ambitions to recreate the castle and in this way convey the story with modern storytelling combined with visitors to experience for themselves how magnificent a building Trelleborg has been, says mayor of Slagelse Municipality, John Dyrby Paulsen (S).

This is a completely unique project that has not been tried before.

- This is the first time in the world that we are starting to recreate a slave castle. It has been an enormous edifice in the Viking Age, and we want to convey something that experience to the many visitors to Ny Trelleborg, says Puk Kirkeskov Hvistendal, who is project manager at Ny Trelleborg.

It is this part of the ring castle that must now be rebuilt. Illustration is brought with permission from Ny Trelleborg.
Photo: New Trelleborg / Slagelse Municipality

The plan is to recreate a gate with a stretch of 15 meters on each side. In addition, a backdrop must be created 10 meters on each side of this, which will illustrate the extent of the defense, without it having to be completely historically correct.

- The plan is for the fortifications to be rebuilt using many of the same techniques that were used at the time. The challenge of making it authentic, however, is that it must partly live up to the building regulations and at the same time be built more sustainably than the original castle was, says Puk Kirkeskov Hvistendal.

It is believed that the Viking castles were originally only in use for a period of between five and ten years.

In front of the palisades, a one meter deep moat will be dug, and a wooden bridge will be built over the grave at the gate.

The intention is that there should be internal spaces in the ramparts, and it is intended that the external facilities can be used for activities such as exercises in how to storm the fortress.

This is how it is believed that the palisade plant was built at Trelleborg.
Photo: Nationalmuseet

- The Viking castles are part of our common history and cultural heritage. And it's definitely something we can be proud of. The Vikings played a big role - also seen worldwide, says Puk Kirkeskov Hvistendal.

Already in 2016, test excavations were carried out in the area where the castle facility is to be reconstructed. Therefore, the work can also start very quickly. The hope is that most of the construction can be completed by 2022.

- The reconstructed castle brings to life an exciting edifice. We believe that Trelleborg and the Viking Age will be more relevant and understandable to the public when they can see and feel the past for themselves, says Frank Rechendorff Møller, director of the Augustinus Foundation.

Palisades at a height of eight meters

A palisade is a kind of wooden wall that has stood on top of the ramparts, and has made it very difficult for an attacker to enter.

Palisades are known from the very first fortifications that we have found in Denmark - but at Trelleborg the technique was refined to the extreme. Here the walls were advanced fortifications with internal spaces that could be used in a defense of the castle.

Many traces of the palisades have been found in the ramparts, and we therefore have a pretty good idea of what they looked like at the time. A later project at Ny Trelleborg is also to recreate two of the houses that are known to have been behind the castle's fortifications. However, the money for this project has not yet been secured.

This is what it may look like when Ny Trelleborg is completed.
Photo: Nationalmuseet

UNESCO is asking

Trelleborg is considered the best-preserved Viking castle that we know of today. Today, the ramparts at Trelleborg are 17 meters wide and five meters high. The diameter of the rampart is 137 meters. This is equivalent to four round towers lying across the circular castle.

- Trelleborg is an essential part of the story of the creation of Denmark as a nation, and therefore a cornerstone of the National Museum's overall dissemination efforts. Trelleborg's annual Viking Festival attracts over 10,000 visitors every summer, and with the restored castle we now have even better opportunities to create live communication for both Danes and tourists, says Rane Willerslev, director of the National Museum.

The idea of ​​recreating parts of Trelleborg has long haunted the scenery, but in recent years interest in the Danish Vikings has grown sharply. Thus, the number of visitors has also almost tripled, and more specifically, Slagelse Municipality has this year had to expand the parking lot at the small museum at Trelleborg.

The great interest has also led to three of the five well-known Danish Viking castles - Aggersborg, Fyrkat and Trelleborg - now in play to be proclaimed a world cultural heritage by UNESCO.

- Our plan to rebuild part of the Viking castle should not be seen in direct connection with the UNESCO application, but it is clear that we will be able to be of great benefit to each other. Our plans here are made with great respect for the old ancient monument, says Puk Kirkeskov Hvistendal.

However, the restored castle may count as a positive thing for the center, as UNESCO, among other things, places great demands on the dissemination of the ancient memory.

Found castle at planned race track

Trelleborg near Slagelse is the country's best studied and at the same time best preserved Viking castle.

It was found as the first of the Danish slave castles when a local motorcycle club in 1933 wanted to use the fine ramparts to make a racetrack. That plan, however, did not materialize.

When the first archaeologists began to study the ancient monument, however, it came to light with findings that showed that it was a very special facility, which is not known from the written sources. Many arrowheads in the violence and charred timber emphasized that this was a very special work of defense, which had apparently undergone a battle.

The timber was used in 1979 to date the castle exactly. We thus know that the tree in the castle was felled in the summer of 980 under the rule of Harald Bluetooth.

Was attacked by enemies

Although we know a great deal about the construction of the Viking castles, we do not know why the castles were built. There are many theories, but in reality our knowledge is limited to almost nothing.

Many have seen the construction in 980 in the light of the large, organized Viking attacks on England in the year 987, but it is much debated whether it has anything to do with the ring forts.

We know, however, that traces of battle have been found at several of the Viking castles.

Also at Trelleborg, there are signs that indicate unrest - in addition to the arrowheads.

Among other things, a fine and very well-preserved shield has been found in a moat, and three mass graves with the bodies of young, well-trained men with injuries to the bones have been found, who have apparently been buried in haste.

However, ordinary graves have also been found in the area - and graves have been found where the dead are buried in both Christian and Old Nordic ways. In connection with these graves, a number of beautiful finds have been made - including splendor weapons and some of the first Danish coins.

The shield in the moat has been made of wood from western Norway, and it fits quite well with the fact that about half of the dead come from either Eastern Europe or Norway. However, we cannot say whether the shield found in the moat at Trelleborg was also carried by a Norwegian before it was lost.

This shield was found in the moat around Trelleborg. Perhaps its owner was found in a mass grave outside the castle.
Brought with permission from Ny Trelleborg. Photo: New Trelleborg / Slagelse Municipality

Although we do not know what the purpose really was with the ring forts, the castle at Slagelse is ideally located if you want to control ship traffic on the Great Belt between Funen and Zealand.

In this way, the location is similar to, for example, Aggersborg by Aggerssund, which could control all shipping through the Limfjord and Borgring by Lellinge and Trelleborg in Sweden, from where traffic in the Øresund could be controlled.

This article is popular in TV East and is written by Jakob Olling
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