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Fredericia: We are building a city where no city should be (An outline for life)

Like Christiansfeld, Fredericia was built on a bare field. A desolate place where no city should be built. However, the area made good sense militarily.

After Jutland had been occupied, looted and burned in the period from 1626-29 and again in 1643-45, it was clear that Jutland needed a defense with, among other things, a strong fortress. And the area at Bersodde was ideal. Even if large parts were untouched swamp. The promontory lay with water on two sides. Therefore, with relatively few kilometers of ramparts, the military could fortify the city and at the same time get supplies and troops in and out of the fortress via the sea route.

King Frederik III started the construction work in 1650. The plans were big. The style drew on the thoughts of the time, when the Renaissance was winding down to give way to the Baroque. Here the king stood shining at the center of a swelling and monumental staging. The first plans were steeped in boasting, power and might. The city had to have a harbor and canals so that goods, supplies and troops could be sailed right into the center of the fortress. The city was to accommodate both the King's and Queen's Squares, castle island and a royal castle, as well as the stock exchange and several other prestigious buildings.

However, the wild plans for the construction, canals etc. were never realised. But the fortress was laid out with mathematical precision and long, straight streets.

It took years to build the rampart, even though the workforce was 5,000 men. But before they had completely finished the ramparts, the Swedes were upon us again. The fortress was captured via a half-finished part of the rampart, and the city was razed. So when the Swedes retreated in 1660, they started all over again with building the ramparts.

A city populated by soldiers, looters, murderers and believers from all over Europe

At that time, the idea was that a fortress should have a city as a basis for functioning – trade and crafts should supply raw materials, food and manufactured goods – the citizens brought labor and provided accommodation for the soldiers – and could also contribute as a reserve force through civilian armaments. But no one wanted to live there. So what did you do? The king forcibly demolished the nearest villages and moved the people to the city. It wasn't enough. The king then gave the city special privileges such as free land to build on, additional land outside the city and 10 years of tax exemption. For a while, the royal power considered closing down Kolding and Vejle and moving the citizens to Fredericia. However, they gave up and instead let criminals settle in the city by granting them the right of asylum. It attracted debtors and murderers. In addition, different faiths were given freedom of religion within the city's walls - which Huguenots, Catholics, Jews and accepted. And that diversity left its mark on the city well into the 20th century.

Defeated, besieged, abandoned

Three times the fortress was directly involved in war.

  • In 1657, when the Swede used a half-finished rampart as a back door for a flank attack and won.
  • In the First Schleswig War, where the fortress withstood a two-month long siege. Here the Danish generals go against prevailing conventional military logic. They made the move on July 6 at one in the night, the surprised Schleswig-Holstein troops attacked and won – even though they were only about half the number of soldiers thought to be needed to defeat the enemy.
  • Finally, the fortress was besieged again during the Second Schleswig War, but was escaped after the defeat at Dybbøl to the Prussian army.

Afterword

After the war in 1864, the fortress quickly lost its military importance. And in 1909 the military decommissioned the fortress. Fortunately, the City of Fredericia bought the fortress in 1914. And already in 1917 the building was protected. And thus posterity secured one of Europe's best-preserved fortifications, which today lies like a green circle around the city centre. Here you can enjoy history and nature via more than 18 km of green paths.

You can also hear the story in the form of a podwalk: Witnesses of Violence - find it on the Useeum app - or try the podcast 'Fredericia city and fortress', which tells about the fortress and the city's history in 12 short episodes. It's free and you'll find it where you normally find podcasts. You choose whether you want to hear 'Witnesses of Violence' or 'Fredericia city and fortress' in Danish or English.

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