Tuesday, 16 June 2009

What to see: Austrått Castle, Opphaug

Austrått is a small Renaissance castle situated at Ørlandet, a strategic point commanding the entrance to the Trondheim fjord and the road to Sweden, an hour by boat across the fjord from Trondheim.
The first owner who is known to posterity was Finn Arnesson, who acquired the manor before 1050. The oldest part of the current castle, the chapel, dates from the 12th century, while the most recent parts were added in the 17th century.
The most famous owner of Austrått was perhaps the mighty Ingerd Ottesdatter (died 1555), who played a significant role in the Reformation and was immortalised by Henrik Ibsen in his play Fru Inger til Østråt. Most of the present castle was however built by her great-great-grandson Ove Bjelke (1611-1674), Chancellor of the Realm of Norway.
A preserved noble castle being a very rare sight in Norway, it was a great loss to the nation when Austrått went up in flames in November 1916, having been struck by lightning. Luckily two architects had for some years worked on making drawings and photos of the castle, the results of which were published only five days before the disastrous fire.
This made it possible to reconstruct the castle, while most of the furniture was replaced with other period pieces. The furniture and artworks in the chapel were however mostly saved, which means that the chapel today has one of the finest collections of old religious art in Norway. Since 1919 Austrått Castle belongs to the State. It is open for guided tours in the summer.
The castle’s loggia and twin staircase, which can be seen in the second picture, were built in 1655 and inspired by Italian architecture. The main building sits on an elevated terrace above the lower courtyard, which can be seen in the fourth photo. Around the courtyard are fourteen wood caryatids (third photo) – on the right are four wise virgins, on the left four foolish virgins, drawn from a biblical story (Matthew 25, 1-13). In the middle are two angels and four male sculptures, all of whose identity is not ascertained, but thought to be figures from the Old Testament. The caryatids seen today were sculpted in 1953-1956 after the originals had been lost in the fire of 1916.
The portal to the courtyard (fifth photo) was built in 1656 and is surmounted by the arms of Ove Bjelke and the first and second of his three wives and surrounded by the arms of his many noble ancestors. The sixth photo shows a rear view of the castle and the seventh the pyramid outside the castle. It has a plaque commemorating Ove Bjelke’s parents Jens Bjelke and Sophie Brockenhuus which is dated 1665, but the pyramid itself is most likely from the 18th century.

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