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Architecture and Interiors at Rockelstad

We take a deeper look into the architecture and style of the houses and most important interiors.

The Castle Exterior

Rockelstad Castle, facade in perspective
Facade in perspective

This small castle of brick and sandstone is a remarkable creation that leaves few visitors untouched. The yard-side is dominated by the sturdy round towers with their copper-clad domed roofs and elaborate spires.

On the centre of the face is a protruding section above the arched main entrance, and the upper floor windows are marked with decorative barocko blind-towers. It gives a balanced, if naïve, impression, and the well-informed visitor will recognize the architecture popular around 1890. But a closer look reveals that the building is slightly asymmetrical, which hints that this is a much older house.
Rockelstad Castle, Lake facade in close-up
Lake facade in close-up
The lake-side is fundamentally different from the yard-side, with arcades of sandstone that bind together the towers at each end with the protruding centre-section; at this side everything is strictly symmetrical. Rockelstad is a romantic fortress on the south side, but an Italian-inspired renaissance palace in on its north side.

Visitors to Rockelstad inevitably ask "when is the castle built?" The truth is that this castle, like so many other old houses, does not have a specific building-date, but is the remainder of changes made by each generation through history. During the 1700th century the owners, the Stuart family, replaced the previous medieval houses, the appearance of which we can only guess, with the typical barocco layout of buildings: A central mansion and four separate wings in pairs along a line of symmetry, forming a court-yard.

The mansion itself is probably built as early as 1642, but the whole complex was not complete until mid 1800th century. Similar estates exist throughout central Sweden, some of which are preserved intact today. Up until 1889 Rockelstad Estate had a 1700th century complex of buildings made of timber, with a central building of about 600 m2, two larger wings of nearly 400 m2 each and two smaller wings. The main building did not have a full upper floor, the slated roof lay directly on top of the bottom floor. All houses had been altered slightly when new owners took over around 1795, to match current fashion inspired from the temples of antiquity, its faces made to look like stone. Most likely the buildings were painted in yellow ochre with whitewashed pilasters and brownish red windows.

The greatest external change occurred in 1890, when the owner Carl Sylvan had four monumental corner-towers added to the rectangular mansion. Today such a rebuilding of an old house would be considered an act of barbaric madness, but at that time there was no such respect of old age. Instead the mode-de-temps was focusing on the 16th century royal castles, particularly those built by the first king of unified Sweden, Gustav Vasa, and the greatest among them, Gripsholm Castle. The Romantic Era during the fist half of the 1900th century had evolved into a national romanticism, and the architects were inspired by such houses they believed to exhibit a genuine Swedish character. This culminated in the great renovation of Gripsholm Castle, which was performed according to a proposal by Fredrik Lilljekvist in 1887, aiming to restore the ancient Vasa-floor and the castle exterior to its original appearance.

Gripsholms Castle
Vasafortress of Gripsholm

The Sylvan transformation of Rockelstad was blue-printed at the office of Isaac-Gustav Claeson in Stockholm, the most noted architect at that time. The old rooms of the house were left more or less unchanged, and only the front round towers were made of bricks.

Rockelstad Castle, The Sylvan facade
The Sylvan facade
The face towards the lake had square towers made of wood with high domed roofs and spires. The whole house was painted red to imitate brick and the towers had a white decoration of arches between the floors and beneath the roof, similar to that on Gripsholm.

Count Eric von Rosen immediately started a reconstruction of his own after his takeover in 1900. He had several obvious objections to the Sylvan house. Its centre-section was overshadowed by the monolithic towers, the upper floors of which were accessible only through ramparts. The main entrance was crowned by an odd-looking tower, and the windows were of a kind typical to the 1890th. The architect Ivar Tengbom was contracted to correct these flaws. He removed the upper floors of the north towers, and had them made into large balconies overlooking the lake.
All decorative elements were executed in carved sandstone and the house was clad with red bricks. The old centre-section was elevated to incorporate a full second floor. Vibyholms Castle
Vibyholms Castle

Rockelstad Castle, beautiful shutters
Detail of the beautiful shutters
The face towards the lake was provided with two long balconies with parapets, suspended by massive sandstone arches, and with loggias underneath. All windows were replaced, and are now made of solid oak with antique glass set in lead, and with decorative wrought-iron hinges. These windows are nearly identical to some in the Vasa-rooms at Gripsholm. In the 1930ies the north towers were re-erected, but they now have simple pyramidal roofs and were left undecorated.

The Great Hall

Rockelstad Castle, lower hall
The lower hall
The great hall at Rockelstad Castle was completed in 1903. It is considered to be Ivar Tengbom’s first major work, and it is a perfect example of the Vasa-renaissance style. This Room aims to give the impression of a Roman Atrium, the nexus around which all other rooms are centred. The upper floor ceiling is elevated, and three large windows open up towards the lake, to let in the sky-light. The bottom floor has a high panelling of dark brown pine-wood with arches and pilasters, and a painted decoration in a mild green, ochre and black.

Within each arched field is painted a vase with flowers, unique to each field. Beneath these arches are rectangular framed fields with painted ornaments in black. This panelling has its closest counterpart in Duke Charles’ Chamber in Gripsholm Castle, a room originally decorated in the 1590ies by Master Hans Painter from Strangnas.

Rockelstad Castle, ceiling paintings Close-up of ceiling paintings at Rockelstad
Close-up of ceiling paintings
The lower floor ceiling has cassettes painted with a primitive pattern that imitates root-wood or marble. These patterns occur also in the upper floor ceiling, but its larger fields have intricately composed ornaments in moss-green and English red, depicting wrought-iron bands and leaf-patterns.

Inspiration of design for this website has mainly been taken from the great hall and the open fireplace there.

Rockelstad Castle, door with wrought-iron locks Close-up of door with wrought-iron locks The hall has heavy single doors, decorated as the panelling and with huge wrought-iron locks. Everywhere in the hall can be found swastikas, count von Rosen’s personal symbol of luck. The great fireplace, built of nine massive blocks of white Gotlandian sandstone, is carved with the von Rosen coat of arms and many elaborate barocco ornaments.

The Dining Room

Rockelstad Castle, The Dining Room
The Dining Room
The castle dining-room’s major characteristic is perhaps its small size. It must be noted that this room was a dining room also in the 17th century building, which was built to be habitable, and does not have large representative ball-rooms. In the ceiling are visible the original broad wooden boards, that were decorated with their remarkable ornaments in the 1680ies. This manner of decorating a ceiling is called "grisaille", i.e. grey-painting, and it aims to imitate stucco.

Rockelstad Castle, dining room ceiling
Dining room ceiling
After the thirty-year-war the upper nobles had a taste for the extravagant barocco interiors that were fashionable in continental Europe. But the lesser gentry could often not afford to hire foreign stucco-artists, such as Carlo Carove, but had simply some skilled local painter make an imitation stucco-ceiling. This eventually evolved into an established art-form that was exported back to the continent.

The dining-room at Rockelstad has grey acanthus-ornaments on a pale blue background, and thirteen figurative paintings. The blue colour is very likely secondary. The octagonal picture in the centre shows Helios riding his sun-carriage; the surrounding four circular pictures are allegories with descriptive Latin proverbs. Around these fields is a band of peculiar ornaments, which show that such patterns of renaissance origin were still in use this late in the 17th century.
This room has a fine fireplace of pink sandstone, with Eric von Rosen’s initials under a count’s crown. In a corner is placed one of the original 17th century doors, decorated to match the ceiling. Rockelstad Castle, fireplace decor
fireplace decor
The room has high wooden panelling, painted green-blue and with accentuating lines of red and ochre-yellow. This panelling was made at the same time as the adjacent circular music-chamber, a room decorated in 1890. At that time the old paintings in the dining-room ceiling were discovered; they had previously been covered with layers of cloth and paint. The owner, Carl Sylvan, decided to have a similar ceiling painted in the round room to tie the two rooms together. But at this modern date the old method with egg-tempera on wood was abandoned, and the ceiling was painted with oil-paint on a plaster of cement. Consequently this ceiling has been falling down ever since, for the paint is slowly being dissolved by the cement.

The Ante-chamber, the Countess bedchamber and the Blue Cabinet

Rockelstad Castle, Ante-chamber during the von Rosen era
Ante-chamber during the von Rosen era
Rockelstad Castle, Countess bedchamber
Countess bedchamber

Rockelstad Castle, Fireplace in the Countess bedchamber
Fireplace in the Countess bedchamber
These three rooms in the western half of the lower floor all have exquisite ceiling-paintings in grisaille, similar to those in the dining-room. After a major water leakage in 1986 these ceilings were renovated, and the conservator then noted that they had been altered or renovated at least three times before. It is probable that these ceilings originated at the same time as the one in the dining-room, and that they have been "improved" upon both before and after the perhaps 150 years they have been covered with cloth. The Ante-chamber ceiling has grey ornaments on a pale blue background; the ornaments are bands of oak-leaves and acanthus around a rectangular centre, the picture of which has been lost. The Master Bedroom has a greenish-blue oval centre with an allegoric picture of Hope. This room has a remarkable fireplace of massive Swedish grey soap-stone, sculpted with gothic roses and a dedication from Eric to his wife Mary, and the date 1909. The tiny Blue Cabinet has a very charming ceiling, painted in shades of grey except in its middle, where a blue sky with woolly clouds opens up.

The Book-room

Rockelstad Castle, The Book-room with golder leather tapestry
The ceiling of this room has a simple band of flowers and leaves in vibrant colours, and a circular centre, it too with floral patterns. Here is nothing of the grisaille or stylized barocco ornaments in the other rooms, but more of the renaissance that has survived in the "kurbits"-patterns common in the County of Dalarna. This ceiling should consequently be older than the others, perhaps painted as early as mid 17th century.

This room also has a frieze of Golden Leather tapestry above the high wooden panelling. This tapestry was manufactured in Holland in around 1700, it is made of calf-skin decorated with patterns in gold, silver, green and cinnaber. The Book-room was furnished with its bookcases and panelling by Tengbom for count von Rosen.

Counts tower (prev. Billiards)

Rockelstad Castle, Counts tower (prev. Billiards)  
Counts tower
This octagonal room in the south-western tower, which has been used as billiards until 2007 (now guestroom), was intended as the Count’s personal study, when it was designed by Tengbom. Again the inspiration was taken from Gripsholm, especially considering the magnificent so called star-ceiling in the Vasa Hall of that castle, a ceiling that originally was made for Tynnelso Castle by the German Master carpenter Hans Kantelitz in 1604.
The ceiling of the counts tower is made of pine-wood, as well as the high panelling with its built-in bookcases. All wooden surfaces are painted with minute decorative wrought-iron like patterns, painted dark against light wood or vice-versa. These ornaments are fashioned to imitate inlays of different kinds of wood. The larger sections of the ceiling each have a stylized rose to honour the Lord of the castle. In the panelling are four sets of built-in and concealed drawers. Between the panel and the ceiling is a plain section of wall, painted in the typical indecisive green colour of the renaissance. In one corner is a fire-place of grey sandstone, adorned with wrought-iron like patterns and sculpted with portrait-busts of the Count and the Countess on each side.

The Turkish Room

Several great estates in Sweden have Turkish rooms or pavilions, often built to be Smoking-rooms in the 19th century, but not many are as extravagant as the one at Rockelstad. The room is in the upper floor of the south-western tower. It was built by Sylvan in 1890 and designed by Claeson, and remains more or less intact today. The blue-prints reveal that this is not a Turkish style at all, but Moorish, i.e. North-African. The high frieze, the pillars and the ceiling are decorated with painted arabesques in red, orange, green, pale blue and gold, and along the ceiling are eight small vaulted windows with coloured glass. The ornaments have been painted ‘al fresco’; directly on the wet plaster, and the colours shine as brightly today as they did a hundred years ago. It is easy to believe that this is a successful pastiche, but Arabic visitors to Rockelstad claims that the various patterns actually are made in accordance with Islamic tradition, why the artist actually could have been an Arab or else he worked according to detailed models. Count Eric von Rosen much appreciated this exotic room, and in here he used to sit and play his lute, and often the well-known folk-lore singer Evert Taube was with him as a welcome guest. Taube composed several of his finest songs in the Turkish Room. Rockelstad Castle, the Turkish Room
The Turkish Room

The Chapel of saint Bridget

Rockelstad Castle, Chapel of saint Bridget
Chapel of saint Bridget
This room in the south-eastern tower was first made into a weaving-chamber by Sylvan in 1890. Here the ladies were to retreat for weaving, when the gentlemen had cognac and cigars in the Turkish room. At that time the room had elaborate turned pillars with wooden lacework capitals, and the frieze above had been decorated with murals of lush Sodermanland sceneries. In 1909 countess Mary von Rosen had this room turned into her personal chapel. The architect Tengbom installed plain polygonal pillars, covered the friezes and ceiling with pinewood, and the remaining walls were now of coarse, lime-washed plaster. A medieval fireplace was made of grey soapstone. The friezes were painted with the nine revelations of Saint Bridget in thin translucent colours. The artist was Oscar Brantberg, headmaster of the Royal Academy of Art, and a good friend of the family von Rosen.

The West Wing

Rockelstad Castle, Tile stove in small blue room
Tile stove in small blue room
This wing was transformed into its current appearance at a thorough renovation in the 1920ies, led by Ivar Tengbom. In the lower floor the doors and panelling from around 1740 were restored, and the rooms were supplied with their attractive fireplaces in rococo-style from Uppsala-Ekeby.

The log-walls were covered by linen cloth, decorated with fields in warm greyscales and gracious ornaments in the rococo and classical styles. Broad pinewood boards became floors in these beautiful, light guest-rooms. The entrance-room has a ceiling with polychrome renaissance-bands above its floor of green-grey Gotlandian limestone. The ante-chamber has a ceiling of hand-planed pine-boards that have been varnished and painted with leaf-ornaments and a picture of the castle as seen from the lake.

Rockelstad Castle, The Hunting-room in guest wing
The Hunting-room
The Hunting-room on the upper floor is completely made of pinewood, heavy beams carry the ceiling and all walls are covered with profiled boards, the doors are of a late-medieval kind with profiled centre-boards. The windows have diamond shaped small panes set in lead, and they have large wooden indoor covers, decorated with simple ornaments. Between the windows are a series of cabinets, integrated invisibly into the panelling. The most dominant piece in this room is however the huge open fireplace, adorned with the medieval coat of arms of the family von Rosen and a swastika.

Rockelstad Castle, the Gothic Chamber
the Gothic Chamber
In the Gothic Chamber Eric von Rosen installed a remarkable gothic door of oak, carved with the characteristic linenfold-pattern of the time. This door, which is preserved completely in its original state and still has its original wrought iron lock, was probably made in the 15th century. This room also has a gothic window with panes set in lead and with extraordinary oak-wood covers and wrought-iron hinges.

The Estate through the ages
Architectural history
Remarkable objects
Rockelstad and Hermann Göring
Legends and Lore
Historical pictures of Rockelstad

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Rockelstad Castle > History > Architecture and Interiors
640 34 Sparreholm. Sweden    Tel: + 46 157 - 32115.    E-Mail:    Sitemap    Last update: 2009-01-09

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