Hald Castle
A Story of Digitial Reconstruction

Hald Castle

Hald Castle was a formidable castle in the Late Middle Ages (mid 14th c.-17th century) and was the center of administration of the entire Central Jutland during this period.

In this article we shall study the remains of the ruins dating back to 1528, much later than Niels Bugge's Motte & Bailey Castle. The ruins are that of the Bishop of Viborg, Jørgen Friis's castle constructed on the remains from the demolished Niels Bugge's Castle from 1348.

Hald Castle, now Hald Ruin, is situated south of the town of Viborg, Denmark.

Here we find some very interesting and unusual ruins.

Unusual, because they do not fit with typical castle ruins making it very difficult to reconstruct.

We do however, have a drawing (the only one that exists) from 1677 by Peder Hansen Resen from the Atlas Danicus with many drawings of castles and towns in the 17th century Denmark. It should be noticed however that the drawing is very inaccurate when judging from the archaeological excavations in the 1970's, 80's and later on. Also the drawing depicts a very rectangularly-shaped area. The earthworks do appear like a rectangle, but to depict them like they appear in the real world, they should be rotated (aprox. 45+ degrees) than it appears on the drawing by Resen, and the buildings are disproportional in size and shape to each other and to the overall drawing itself.

It means we cannot fully trust this drawing:

Hald Castle 1677, by Peder Hansen Resen in Atlas Danicus.


The floor plan of the castle ruins reveals something very remarkable:

As one will already notice, the floor plan is curved. There appears some straight lines, but these are due to the drawing, not the ruins themselves, which curves very smoothly.

The ruins reveals 4 gun slits for muskets or even cannons. But when they were excavated in the 1970's the casemates contained some collapsed barrel vaults, on top of which there were only earthworks.

These massive earthworks have let people speculate whether the casemates were covered with earthworks at the time of the construction of the Hald Castle in 1528-1700. However this would lead to several problems:

First of all it makes the building consisting of the gatehouse very small/narrow. But it was said it was the main building (its name was actually "Store Stenhus" ("Large Stone House") with a lot of rooms and had several two floors above the basement (the basement can only be the casemates). Secondly, on each side of the ruins there appears to be bottoms of Pit Latrines/garderobes (medieval toilets). But the back of the pits are walled up too much for the soldiers in the casemates to use them. This means that walls of the pit latines shouldn't stop there, but should've been walled further up to at least a floor above the basement. But if the casemates were covered with earthworks, it would not allow for a second floor.

As one can also see, there are holes in the walls at each gun slit. The most likely explanation for this appearance would be for a wooden beam to support the hook of a "Hakenbüchse" ("Hook Gun", Arquebus). Bellow is a reconstruction of the Gun Slit to the east/right of the Pit Latrine:

- Which means you can't just cover it with earthworks. You have to let some of the smoke out, or it gets very dense of smoke from the guns in the casemates. This clue also is against the theory of the earth-covered casemates. You need to have at least some evidence - at the base level - of something to lead the smoke out in the air, but there is only one fireplace in the southern casemate, nothing in the northern casemate.

Also notice in picture at the beginning of this article, that the walls behind the northern casemate (to the left) seems to continue further up, but not in the southern casemate:

This however, could be due to the tearing down of the castle walls in the 1700s.

The only rectangular shaped parts of the ruins are where the glacis and drawbridge pits are located.

Usually that means it would be the the only place where the rectangular shaped building could be located, like one with stepped gables.

But as already said earlier, the gatehouse was the largest building of the entire castle, as it was the main building (from written records dating back to 1601). It had several chambers - "The King's Chamber", "The Queen's Chamber" and several other chambers, stairs etc. If the gatehouse was that narrow, it wouldn't allow for any of these chambers or the stairs.

If we had to make a reconstruction of the narrow gatehouse, it would probably look something like this:

But how do we then explain the curved nature of these ruins? According to the 1677-drawing, the gatehouse clearly had stepped gables. Are there any other examples of 16th century curved & stepped gables?

There is, almost dated to the same year as the Hald Castle: Månstorp Castle in Sweden. The Månstorp Castle was built in the 1540's and is known for its very unusual gables - hence its name: Månstorp Gables.

Therefore, in order to combine it with the archaeological findings through roughly 40-50 years, a more plausible explanation - and hence reconstruction - would be a much wider gatehouse/main building:

Though further excavations might be needed to fully explain these ruins, but the ruins are class-1 registered and several permissions are needed even to move a single brick or stone.

For now, all reconstructions have to be a guess. But perhaps we can make a qualified guess based on current and past knowledge?

The Parts of Hald Castle:

The gatehouse had a double-drawbridge system. Usually at such castles, as is often seen in France, Germany and elsewhere, the large drawbridge was up/closed, because it took the most time to raise the large drawbridge than the small drawbridge if an enemy approaches.

Add to that the drawbridge pits would have been partially filled with water from the moat/lake making it even more difficult to raise it.

Here we see the tower's interior reconstructed from records in the years 1601-1612), though during that period the castle had ceased to function as a military fortress and the tower would've had a pointed roof:

This type of breech-loading cannon would probably have been used in the tower. Rocks in the bottom would absorb the recoil when the gun is fired:

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