Trelleborg (Slagelse)

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Trelleborg Viking Castle
Model of the Viking castle

Model of the Viking castle

Alternative name (s): Trelleborg Viking Castle open-air museum
Creation time : Late Viking Age
Castle type : Niederungsburg
Conservation status: Wall remains
Construction: Palisades, gates, ramparts (and ditches)
Place: at Slagelse
Geographical location 55 ° 23 '38.8 "  N , 11 ° 15' 54.9"  E Coordinates: 55 ° 23 '38.8 "  N , 11 ° 15' 54.9"  E
Trelleborg (Denmark)

The Trelleborg , a Viking fortress , built around proven 981 is located to the west of Slagelse on the Danish main island of Zealand , on a promontory between two rivers and was excavated from 1934 to 1942. Originally, it was built on a headland that protruded into an inaccessible swamp area. There was a navigable connection to the Great Belt via a now silted up lake . It and three other Viking castles ( Aggersborg , Fyrkat and Nonnebakken ) were built by Sven Gabelbart . The Trelleborg had room for about 1,300 people.


The name “T rælleborg ” is very common. The first member is probably due to the Old Danish genitive plural thræl , Old West Norse þræll , which means “slave” or “unfree”. But this is controversial. Another interpretation is based on homonymous Nordic dialect words that designate sticks or poles and are used on the fortifications of the ramparts. The second link seems to be the old Danish word borgh , burgh , old- west Norse borg (= "walling"). Another source cites the relationship to Trojeborg and Trollburg. The name has around 40 equivalents in Scandinavian, 28 of them in today's Denmark. The wide distribution shows that it was a hiking name. Reference has also been made to the great earthworks which slaves were assigned to build. But that would only be acceptable for the earliest uses of the word. Others refer to the function of the castles as fortresses and centers of royal power, which is why they have been called "slave castles". According to the more recent opinion, there was a Trelleborg, the name of which was carried over to the other castles. This original castle was the Trelleborg in Skåne because this central square had a high status early on. After that, the meaning as "castle built by slaves" would be the most likely. The modern terminus Trelleborg for 4 very specific castles in Denmark is secondary.

Building the castle

Main castle

The main castle consists of a 17.5 meter wide and 5 meter high ring wall with a diameter of 137 meters. The outer wall was reinforced by a solid oak construction, which consisted of a sloping front section and two rows of stakes, the space between which was filled with clay and stones. The wall was originally 5 meters high and 18 meters wide. There was also wood paneling on the inside. The wall was reinforced by beams connecting the facades. In front of the ring wall there is a 5 m wide berm in the east. In front of it there is a 17 m wide and 4 m deep V-shaped moat. This was laid out as a dry trench and had a row of palisades made of beams at its bottom. To get into the castle, there were four gates that were aligned with the cardinal points. The gates were connected by two thresholded streets and were secured to the earth wall by stone packings. Possibly there was another ring path on the inside of the wall. In the main castle there were a total of 16 long houses , which were grouped in four squares around an inner courtyard. All previously explored Trelleborg-type castles have this basic plan in common. The houses were 29.42 meters long and shaped like a ship. Each house was divided into three parts: a large central hall (18 × 8 meters) and two smaller rooms on the gable ends. Each house had four entrances, one on each end and one on the long sides. There were still vestibules in front of the entrances. In addition to the long houses, there was a small house in the north of the north-east house square, a small house in the middle of the north-east and south-west house square and a small house with a square floor plan at the north and west gate.

Outer bailey

Outdated reconstruction of a nave

In contrast to the other three Trelleburgen, this one had an outer bailey. The outer bailey was secured to the east by its own ramparts. Around the ring wall of the main castle, 15 long houses with a length of 26.33 meters were arranged radially to the main castle.

In an extension of this outer bailey there is a grave field with 135 burials of mostly younger men, but also women and children. Two graves were used for mass burial for 5 and 11 people. Over two thirds of the graves had no grave goods, the others only a few pieces, and very rarely weapons. However, two graves were richly furnished. One of them is a woman's grave with pearls, a bronze bucket, a wooden box and game pieces. The other was a man's grave with a bronze bowl and a splendid ax with silver inlays. The numerous graves without gifts indicate Christian influence.

Equestrian graves were found on high places around Trelleborg.


Mainly utensils were found: clay pots, locks, keys, fittings, riding gear, knives, whetstones, flint stones, combs, loom weights, scissors and needles. Weapons such as iron axes, arrowheads, pikes and shield bosses were also found. In 2008, wooden parts of an almost complete Viking shield were found. The shield, measuring 85 centimeters, consists of seven fir boards 8 millimeters in the middle and only 5 millimeters thick on the edges. The leather upholstery is rotten and there are a number of small holes near the edge. The opening for the hand is oval, the shield boss is missing.

Well-like sacrificial pits have also been found on Trelleborg. They reach under the houses and were thrown before they were built. In one of them lay two small children with the head and limbs of a young billy goat with a broken forehead. Another contained two children and large parts of a young cow, dog, and other animals, and a third contained a human skull.

Panorama of the main castle

Interpretation of Trelleborg

The older interpretations assume that it was built around the year 1000. The dendrochronology resulted in an establishment in the years 980/81. The short construction time and the lack of any signs of any repair work suggest a very short use. The castle may have been abandoned before it was completed. There are traces of fire that suggest a violent extermination. The gate areas seem to have been used for resettlement.

In connection with the other castles, the facility was interpreted as a military facility. Because of their consistency, a single master builder can be assumed for all three castles on behalf of the king. Harald Blauzahn was already 71 years old at that time and should not have dealt with this task, especially since he was overthrown by Sven Gabelbart a little later and castle building continued until around the year 1000. Since women were apparently also present in the castle, a number for the occupancy and military use is pure speculation.

Why Sven Gabelbart had the castles built is not known due to a lack of written sources. It is associated with the internal unrest that culminates in his revolt against Christianization . In any case, their strict geometric structure suggests prestige buildings. Their short use shows that the son Sven Gabelbarts already followed a different line.

See also


Individual evidence

  1. Jørgensen p. 8 f.
  2. See Eva NymanTrælleborg. In: Reallexikon der Germanischen Altertumskunde (RGA). 2nd Edition. Volume 31, Walter de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 2006, ISBN 3-11-018386-2 , pp. 118-119.
  3. The 'Viking Shield' from Archeology. Retrieved October 29, 2009 .

Web links

Commons : Trelleborg (Slagelse)  - collection of images, videos and audio files