Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Tove's Background Information on Kristianstad (Sweden)

The municipality of Kristianstad is the largest municipality (land and water) of Skåne (Sweden’s southernmost province). Kristianstad has about 74,000 inhabitants living in 1346.2 km2 (approximately 55 ppl per km2), and about 37% of these live in the central town of Kristianstad, a lively trading town with many shops in a beautiful and well-kept town center with wide pedestrian streets.

During th
e Middle Ages, Skåne was a part of Denmark and the cities of Vä (= sacred place) and Åhus were both important centers for trade, religion, and royal power. However Denmark and Sweden were constantly involved in bitter battles. In February 1612, the infantry of the Swedish king Gustaf II Adolf razed Vä to the ground. The Danish King Christian IV (nicknamed “Christian the Great” in Denmark and “Christian the Tyrant” in Sweden) decided to build a new and more easily defended fortified city on the island of Allön, in the heart of the wetlands near the river Helgeå, instead of rebuilding Vä.

The town was founded on May 22, in 1614 and was named Christianstad (Christian's town) after the king, but today the towns name is spelled
Kristianstad. The king revoked the city charters of Vä and Åhus and made the bourgeois move to the new city. The bourgeois disliked the position of the new city, because of the disease-causing marsh climate and the bad ground for building. Draining of the surrounding wetlands in the 1860s later solved the disease problems, but bad building ground is a big problem even in modern Kristianstad.

Kristianstad was for its time a very modern fortress, and it was the first important fortified town in Scandinavia that made full use of the Renaissance system of bastions. It is also one of few towns in the Nordic countries that are built on the basis of a decree on a place with no earlier settlements. These conditions gave Kristianstad its straight streets and right-angled city plan. The ramparts were leveled in 1847 to make way for Parisian-style boulevards and give the town room to expand. These streets are also
named boulevards, just like in Paris, and have given Kristianstad the nickname "Lilla Paris"(= Little Paris). Today only portions of the northern moat are left. Kristianstad and Skåne became Swedish in 1658 at the Treaty of Roskilde, but this didn't create peace for Kristianstad. Snappharana, the feuding guerilla soldiers of the time, were fighting what they saw as the Swedish invaders for about 50 more years and during that time Danish troops captured the town twice.

“The most Danish town in Sweden”

Even though Kristianstad was only Danish for 44 years (1614-1658), its “Danishness” is still
apparent and Christian IV makes his presence felt in many ways. For instance, the municipal coat of arms contains his name cipher "C4" and before 1898, when private banks had the right to issue banknotes, paper money from "Christianstads Enskilda Bank" bore the portrait and coat of arms of Christain IV - a Danish monarch on a Swedish banknote!


Krisitianstad was a trading town, and barges used to sail through dredged channels from the port in Åhus, up until the water level fell after the Helgeå river created a new channel to the
sea in 1775. In 1865 the first railway line was opened, and when the railways were at their peak, seven different lines radiated from Kritianstad. Although many of those railway lines have closed, Kristianstad still has a good connection to Lund, Malmö, and Copenhagen. A small airport is situated in Everöd, just outside Kristiantad. "Food Capital of Sweden” The land around Kristianstad is good for farming, which combined with a clean environment, specialist skills, and top food manufacturers make Kristianstad the food capital of Sweden. Each week every Swede probably consumes at least one product from Kristianstad.

Kristianstad’s Coat of Arm

King Christians IV of Denmark, the founder of Kristiastad, gave Kristianstad its coat of arms in 1622. The coat of arms consists of two golden lions holding the crowned monogram of Christian IV between each other on a blue background. The town kept the coat of arms when Kristianstad became Swedish at the peace of Roskilde in 1658 and is supposedly today the only city/town in the world that has the monogram of a foreign monarch in its coat of arms.

Maps of Krisitanstad
The left map shows the fortress Christainstad in the 1670s, the middle map is from 1807, when the fortress was at its largest, and the right map is over central Kristianstad today. North is to the right on all three maps.

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