With all its culture and history, Dragsholm Slot is a very complex phenomenon.
The castle is one of the oldest in Denmark and has been part of the beautiful Odsherred area for more than 800 years. Meanwhile, wars have been waged, nobility has married in the castle chapel and prominent prisoners have been escorted across the castle courtyard. Nowadays, Dragsholm Slot functions as a hotel with 41 double rooms, two renowned restaurants, a functions, courses and conferences centre, and as a church for weddings and church services. Our ongoing ambition is to welcome our guests to enjoy a cohesive and holistic experience. We walk a fine line between preserving and conveying the historic authenticity and character of the area, while bringing the castle and its cultural history into 21st century functionality and aesthetics.
...working secular buildings and is located next to Sejerø Bay in the southwest of Odsherred in Northwest Zealand. For part of its history the castle was called "Adelersborg". Sources first mention “Draugh” in 1313/1320 and “Draugsholm” in 1336. “Draugh” or “Drag” are old Danish words for isthmus and refer to the narrow strip of land that linked Odsherred to the rest of Zealand. The isthmus was to the east of Dragsholm near Dragsmølle and was approx. 200m wide. Until Lammefjord was dammed between 1873 and 1943, Dragsholm was surrounded by water on three sides (east, south and west).
THE ORIGINAL DRAGSHOLM
The original Dragsholm was not called a castle, but a palace. We have no sources to provide an absolutely certain date, but we have certain clues that can reasonably demonstrate when the oldest Dragsholm was built. Roskilde's bishop Peder Sunesen (bishop from 1191-1214) had triple Roman windows built into the choir at Roskilde Cathedral, which are of the same type as the bricked-up windows that can be seen at the eastern end of the south wall. The windows at Dragsholm measured 4.6 and 3.6 metres in height respectively and were in three groups of three, with a higher window flanked by two slightly lower ones. Window sections of this type were unusual in Denmark during this period, so there is good reason to assume that both master and builder were the same for Roskilde Cathedral’s apse and Dragsholm. With some caution, that would suggest that the first Dragsholm was built in about 1215. The building was based around a main wing in the south with a hall that was 22.5 metres in length and with a high ceiling six metres up. This included a ground floor with a living area, kitchen, etc. On sunny days, markings are visible in the south wall showing the three triple Roman windows (nine in total) around the bottom two rows of four-paned windows. The main wing had a side wing to the east.
DRAGSHOLM DURING THE MIDDLE AGES AND THE RENAISSANCE
Over the course of the first centuries of Dragsholm’s history, the original palace building was expanded and converted into a four-wing fortress castle. The triple windows were bricked up and replaced by smaller ones. The walls were made thicker, the south walls from the inside. Defence works of various types were added to the entire castle bank, and the moat was made deeper and wider. In the northeast corner, a castle tower was built into the existing walls. This measured 32 metres in height, ten by ten metres on the ground and the walls were approximately two metres thick. These alterations gradually transformed the original palace into a fortified castle.
THE COUNT'S FEUD AND THE REFORMATION
Denmark's transition from Medieval to Renaissance came with the Reformation in 1536. The reformation in Denmark came about after a war of succession known as "the Count's Feud" which lasted about two years. The war was won by Duke Christian (crowned Christian III) against the Lübecks, who were led by Count Christoffer of Oldenburg, after whom the feud was named. Dragsholm was besieged for about four months, starting in January 1535. During the siege it came under fire by Count Johan of Hoya (Hoyer) from the losing side. Dragsholm was never stormed, however, so at the end of the war the castle was still controlled by Roskilde’s bishop, Joachim Rønnow. He was imprisoned alongside all Denmark's other bishops.
FROM BISHOP'S PALACE TO KING’S CASTLE
The bishops had initially not wanted to support the protestant Duke Christian, so by imprisoning the bishops and reforming the church, Christian III strengthened the power of the King and the property he confiscated from the bishops ensured that he could pay for the two-year war. After threatening the acting Lord Lieutenant at Dragsholm, the drawbridge was opened to Christian III’s men, and Dragsholm was thereby transferred to the Danish Crown. Dragsholm thus became Dragsholm Slot and was managed as a royal fiefdom.
ROYAL FIEFDOM AND STATE PRISON
When Dragsholm was taken over by the King, it was in a rather worn out state, and Dragsholm Slot would remain in a fairly poor state of repair with only the most essential of work being done for many years. It was not until Lord Lieutenant Claus Daae (at Dragsholm from 1624-41) that Dragsholm Slot would receive a proper renovation. Under the leadership of architect Hans van Steenwinckel the younger, a bay tower was built in the restored and now narrower east wing. However, it would not be long before Dragsholm Slot once again needed a loving hand. As a royal estate In the period 1536-1664, Dragsholm Slot also served as a prison for noble and priestly prisoners. Secure prison cells were set up in the large "barfred" (castle tower) in the northeast corner of the medieval castle, which were equipped with "secrets" (toilets) and windows depending on the prisoner’s crimes, behaviour and perhaps not least the degree to which they had insulted the monarch. One of the more famous prisoners at Dragsholm Slot was Roskilde’s last Catholic bishop and former occupant of the castle, Joachim Rønnow, Scottish Earl James Hepburn and the, by all accounts, completely insane Lord Ejler Brockenhuus.
THE SWEDISH WARS
The first Karl Gustav war broke out in 1657. The Swedes were busily engaged in wars against Poland, or so believed the Danish king and the Danish Council of State, who turned out to be badly wrong. The Swedish Army conquered all of Denmark before anyone was even able to raise the alarm. The Treaty of Roskilde that followed allowed the Swedish Army to stay on Zealand for a couple of months. During their stay, the Swedes ate their fill at the expense of the Danes, while also looking hungrily at the weakened kingdom. The Swedes therefore decided that they would occupy Denmark again. Only Copenhagen held a stand. During the occupation, the Swedes also occupied Dragsholm Slot, but apparently the castle had suffered so much damage during the war that they instead chose to stay at the associated Rødegaard Farm in Vindekilde. However, the castle was not in such a bad state that it prevented the Swedes from deciding that they would blow it up just before the treaty of 1660. Gunpowder charges in the castle tower took out the entire top section and caused the entire east-facing side of the tower to collapse. The consequences of the blasting can now be seen through a hole in the inner wall of the King’s stairway. In the hole can be seen parts of the 15th-century fortress brickwork and the facing wall that was built at the end of the 17th-century castle’s restoration. According to a source from 1662 that mentions Dragsholm Slot “the castle has been completely blown up so that all that is left is bricks and rubble.”
ABSOLUTE MONARCHY AND MERCANTILE CASTLE
After the Swedish wars, the Danish king was on the verge of bankruptcy, but he was not alone. Danish nobility which, together with the Crown had a monopoly on land properties, was also financially struggling after the two years of siege, which had been hard on peasants, farms, manors and the Lord Lieutenant’s stores. Together with the King, the citizens of Copenhagen took advantage of this opportunity to weaken the nobility’s powers and instead introduce absolute monarchy in Denmark. The King may now have become a very powerful man, but he still owed large sums to many Copenhagen merchants, including loans to pay the mercenaries by whom the most recent war had been brought. Merchant Henrik Müller was one of the crown’s largest lenders. In 1664, Müller received Dragsholm Slot as payment, but at a poor price and was therefore unable to cover his own debts. He therefore had to use Dragsholm Slot as security to his creditor, the wealthy Portugese merchant Manuel Teixeira in Hamburg. However, he received Dragsholm Slot at an even worse price than Müller, so he decided in 1694 to sell the castle to nobleman Frederik Christian Adeler. This time, the sale price was just under the price the land was worth.
ADELER, ADELERSBORG AND DRAGSHOLM SLOT
Frederik Christian Adeler and Henriette Margrethe von Lente marked the completion of the reconstruction and conversion of Dragsholm Slot in 1697 with wall anchors bent in the shape of their initials and the year at the top of the inner brickwork of the east wing. During the renovation work, Adeler aimed to recreate the castle as a baroque building in a contemporary architectural style. The Baroque form is expressed in the whitewashed walls, the hipped roofs and the attempts to create symmetry in the inner courtyard. Inappropriate window placements, false windows and doors and the entrance in the northeast corner indicate that the former castle fortifications had to be taken into account during the reconstruction work. For example, what we know today as the King’s stairway was built in the old castle tower. Dragsholm was elevated to the status of barony in 1784 under the Adeler family, and in 1785 Dragsholm Slot changed its name to Adelersborg. After having been a family house (allodial estates that could be inherited by daughters) for a number of years, in 1843 Adelersborg became a barony again under Baron Georg Frederik Otto Zytphen-Adeler, who resumed the use of the name Dragsholm Slot in 1868. G.F.O. Zytphen von Adeler was an enterprising and was, among other things, the man behind the damming of Lammefjord (in the period 1873-1943).
DRAGSHOLM SLOT IN THE TWENTIETH CENTURY
At the start of the 20th century, Dragsholm’s land activities saw multiple cutbacks of significant scale, and when Baron Frederik Georg de Falsen Zytphen-Adeler’s died childless in 1932, the Danish National Committee on Ground Law took over Dragsholm Slot (when the fiefdoms were replaced in 1919, Dragsholm Slot was no longer a baronym, but free property). After a large auction of the estate and the subdivision of the land, Dragsholm Slot was sold in 1937 to Johan Frederik Bøttger, who leased out the castle as a hotel and farmed the estate's agricultural land. With the exception of the end of the German occupation during the Second World War, when the Germans established a regional headquarters at the castle, Dragsholm Slot has been used as a hotel ever since.
In 2002 J.F. Bøttger’s sole heir, Inge Merete Bøttger, bought out his brother Flemming Frederik Bøttger, and became the sole owner of Dragsholm Slot. Since then, Dragsholm Slot has undergone a number of renovations with the aim of raising the standard of the hotel's rooms. In August 2005, Inge Merete’s son Mads Bøttger was hired as castle director. In recent years, a number of rooms have been added to the castle’s associated buildings (Manor and Porter house), and the restaurant in the basement has been renovated and expanded. Inaugurated in June 2006, the basement floor is comprised of the castle’s second kitchen, gourmet restaurant and reception. Since the inauguration, the kitchen has worked hard to use the historical references to Lammefjord and Odsherred and present them on the plates. In 2008-2009, the park and moat were restored with funding support from the A.P. Møller og Hustru Chastine Mc-Kinney Møllers Fond til almene Formaal charitable fund. Development Northwest Zealand also provided support during this project towards the restructuring and expansion of the castle’s herb garden, which is located where there was previously a baroque ornamental garden. Dragsholm Gods has an area of 187 hectares.
OWNERS OF DRAGSHOLM SLOT THROUGH THE YEARS
(1313-1536) Roskilde Bishop’s Court
(1536-1664) The Danish Crown
(1664-1682) Henrik Müller
(1688-1694) Manual Texeira
(1694-1727) Frederik Christian von Adeler
(1727-1757) Christian von Lente of Adeler (son)
(1757-1785) Conrad Wilhelm Adeler (nephew)
(1785-1816) Frederik Adeler (son)
(1816-1836) Bertha Moltke married Adeler
(1836-1878) Georg Frederik Otto Zytphen-Adeler (daughter’s daughter’s spouse)
(1878-1908) Frederik Herman Christian de Falsen Zytphen-Adeler (son)
(1908-1932) Georg Frederik de Falsen Zytphen-Adeler (son)
(1932-1936) The Zytphen-Adeler Family
(1936) The Danish National Committee on Ground Law
(1936-1985) Johan Frederik Bøttger
(1985-2002) Flemming Frederik Bøttger / Inge Merete Bøttger
(2002-2015) Inge Merete Bøttger
(2015-) Mads Hylleholt Bøttger