The Armoury and the Lathe Room, Skokloster Castle

The Armoury is perhaps the most exciting place in the whole Castle. The naturally darkened walls hung with rows of guns and pistols are calculated to fire the imagination; this has always been the case. This might have been part of the intention when the three rooms in the castles top storey were fitted out, in the winter of 1669-70. Two carpenters, Hans Sivers and Mattias Slange, sawed boards from thick logs to line the walls, creating a rustic but at the same time eminently practical environment – just the thing for the thousand and more forged nails which had to be hammered in to carry the weapons. Wrangel’s armourer at the time, Mattias Henriksson Plog, could then hang everything and put the three rooms in order. Between them they contain something like 2,000 items.

Not only weapons and armour but also stuffed exotic animals, a Greenland kayak, a South American hammock, and Native American artefacts from the New World mingled here with Italian chopines (platform heels) and theatrical costumes from Stockholm. The Armoury, then, was a farrago of everything that Man and Nature were capable of achieving. People would come here perhaps after dinner both to admire beautiful, modern weapons and to be fascinated by remote, exotic worlds beyond the confines of Europe. All this and a Library add up to a great starting point for the imagination.

The art of turning at the lathe was for over 250 years part of the education of a European prince. Adepts would be privately tutored by masters of the art. They worked with such costly, exclusive materials such as ivory and ebony producing twisted, asymmetrical beakers or balls enclosed in open spheres – many-faceted, complex shapes of the kind which late Renaissance and Baroque people loved, and which at the same time did justice to the virtuoso skills of the turner. The objects were often made for no practical use but were displayed in special rooms or cabinets.

So when Carl Gustav Wrangel had his lathe workshop fitted out at Skokloster in 1673, he was following a continental tradition. Nils Nilsson Brahe, his son-in-law, had already purchased a lathe and lathe tools in Stockholm a few years earlier. They had been made by Johan Kesmaker, an Admiralty smith, from whom Wrangel went to commission a couple of lathes and a great number of lathe tools. These, together with tools from an auction of the effects of Johan Oxenstierna at Rosersberg, make up the Skokloster Lathe Workshop as we now know it.

The Castle also has an impressive collection of Dutch woodworking tools such as planes, saws, carver’s chisels and drills etc. Most of these were bought by Wrangel already in 1664, and delivered from Amsterdam. The Skokloster Lathe Workshop and collection of tools are unique of their kind in Europe. Tools have been used, worn out and discarded through out history, but here they have been saved. We know when most of them were bought, we know what many of them were used for; we have the results or products, and in some cases we also have the prototypes.

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Skokloster Castle
Skokloster Castle is a Swedish Baroque castle built between 1654 and 1676 by Carl Gustaf Wrangel, located on a peninsula of Lake Mälaren between Stockholm and Uppsala. It became a state museum in the 1970s and displays collections of paintings, furniture, textiles and tableware as well as books and weapons.

The finished parts of the castle display the full, sumptuous splendour of the Baroque. Its detailed chambers are home to collections of paintings, furniture, textiles and silver and glass tableware. One of the most famous paintings is the 16th century Vertumnus by Italian master Giuseppe Arcimboldo, depicting the face of Holy Roman emperor Rudolf II as the Roman god of the seasons using fruits and vegetables. The painting was taken as war booty in Prague in the 17th century.

The castle armoury and library are noteworthy, both founded on Wrangel’s collections of weapons and books and enriched and enlarged by other 17th- and 18th-century aristocratic bequests, such as those by Carl Gustaf Bielke.

The armoury contains the largest collection of personal 17th century military weapons in the world. Mostly muskets and pistols, but also swords – including Japanese samurai swords – small cannons, pikes and crossbows. The weapons collection also includes various exotic items such as a 16th-century Eskimo canoe and snake skins. The original scale model of the castle, which the architect Caspar Vogel had made to demonstrate his plan to Count Wrangel, is also there.

Skokloster Castle is located at the countryside 60 km northwest of Stockholm, the Swedish capital. Together with the Hallwyl Museum and the Royal Armoury the castle constitutes a national authority, headed by a Director General, and accountable to the Ministry of Culture. The three museums base their work on a national cultural policy resolution enacted by Swedish Parliament. Skokloster Castle is one of the mayor monuments from the period when Sweden was one of the most powerful countries in Europe. It’s built in the baroque style between 1654 and 1676. At Skokloster the Field Marshal and Count Carl Gustaf Wrangel (1613-1676) created a stately home of European caliber during the second half of the 17th century. Just like continental princes, he tried to understand the world by collecting the most remarkable things that Man and nature were capable of making. The castle has remained amazingly untouched for more than 300 years, giving this building a unique authenticity. Wrangel and the following owners collected fine arts like armory, books, silver, glass, textiles and furniture. The collection consists of about 50 000 items in the 77 rooms in the Castle. Skokloster is considered one of the great castles of Baroque Europe.