Kalø Slot

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Kaloe Castle Ruin in Denmark
Kalø Slotsruin med flok af kragefugle.jpg
Kalø Slot is located in Denmark
Kalø Slot
Type lowland castle
Code DK
Site information
Condition Ruin
Site history
Built 1313

Kalø Slot is a ruined castle located in eastern Jutland, in Denmark, 20 km from the city of Aarhus.


The castle was founded in 1313 by the Danish king Erik Menved, as one of at least four similar strongholds in Jutland, constructed to counter the ongoing rebellions of the Jutlandic nobility and peasantry against the Crown. The other strongholds were Borgvold in Viborg, Bygholm in Horsens and Ulstrup east of Struer and they were all build by peasant slavery workers, in order to break their rebellious spirit. Kalø slot was raised on the small island of Kalø, connected to the mainland by a 500 m long artificial embankment, rising 1,2 m above sea level. The embankment was cobbled, deep moats were dug and earth mounds was heaped up around the fortress, a port of call was constructed, outer ringwalls, etc. all build by hand. It were a colossal task in the early 1300s.

Kaloe Castle Ruin lies on a peninsula 30 km north of Aarhus in Denmark

The castle of Kalø was successful in its original purpose, but already in 1320 the new king Christoffer II was forced by the Danish nobility in a coronation charter to tear it down, along with most of the Crowns fortresses in Jutland. It is not clear how much of the castle were actually torn down, but the Crown definitely lost its grip of Kalø and it was mortgaged. From the 15th century and onwards, Kalø had a more peaceful role, as the local administrative center and state prison. King Christian II held the future Swedish king Gustav Vasa captive at Kalø during 1518-1519, until he escaped and fled to Lübeck, disguised as a common peasant.

Cows and tourists
Easterly view from the castle across Egens Vig (Bight of The Oak).
The cobbled embankment leading to Kalø

When king Frederick III converted the elective monarchy into an absolute monarchy by the revolution of 1660 in Denmark, Kalø slot lost its function. The buildings had fell into decay under the Swedish occupation during the wars between Sweden and Denmark in the years 1643-45, so in 1662, Ulrik Frederik Gyldenløve, decided to tear it down, after he received the abandoned ruin from his father Frederick III. The useful materials were used to build his private palace in Copenhagen, now called the Charlottenborg Palace.

Kalø and Kalø Slot, was declared protected as early as the 1800s and the restoration process was initiated in the year 1903, lead by architect C.M. Smidt from the National Museum. There is a memorial stone for him next to the riding ground. The restoration proceeded through World War II, when the German marines used Kalø as target for their gunboat shooting practices. Fortunately nobody got hurt and the ruins were only slightly damaged by the canons.

Today Kalø and Kalø Slot is owned and declared to be protected by the Danish State. In 2009 the area was incorporated into the Mols Bjerge National Park.


The peninsula with the castle ruin is named 'Kalø' - 'ø' - meaning, island, in Danish and 'Kal' has hitherto been written as 'Kalf' and is probably an older version of the modern Danish word 'Kalv' meaning calf. It is unclear if the island was named calf-island, because peasants used to send their cattle there, or if the small island was poetically perceived as a calf lying next to the mainland, representing the cow. This later use of the word calf has been quite common in Denmark and was often applied when a smaller island were placed next to a bigger island. The island is a natural formation. In Lillebælt between Jutland and Fyn a small island is likewise called, Fænø Kalv - calf of the bigger island, Fænø.[1]

In literature[edit]

Kalø slot is part of some acclaimed Danish novels:

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ An etymological note (from the book The Danish place names, Johannes Steenstrup, 1908)

Sources and external links[edit]

Coordinates: 56°16′28.28″N 10°28′1.85″E / 56.2745222°N 10.4671806°E / 56.2745222; 10.4671806