Old Town is approx. 850 - 900 years old, we don't know exactly when it was founded. What we do know is that during all these years the remains of many interesting things has been left for us to see tooday. This is their story.
1 & 22 - Decapitation and the Gallow
In the medival Stockholm there where 3 types of punishment, death by hanging (only for men, women was drowned instead) or death by decapitation (axe or sword, the later was for nobel persons only), Kåken (read more about Kåken below) or fines. If you didn't have the money to pay your fines you ended up in Kåken instead and often got flogged.
The Gallow was where they hanged people, and they stayed there until they droped down by themselves (rotten in other words). This meant that the Gallow was located a bit outside the city. In 1818 the last person was hanged in Sweden and that was at Skanstull, today not far trom the city centre of Stockholm.
Decapitation was the other way to execute people. For the Axeman this was profitable since he got 10 daler for a decaptiation but only 5 for a hanging. To cut someones tongue out he also got 5 daler but it was a tricky job. The worst paid was to just pinch someone with a torture pincer, that gave only 2 daler.
The decaptiatiions took place at Stortorget (the main square) during the early days but was moved to Mynttorget already in the 14:th century where it stayed until the middle of the 17:th century. There was a permanent execution place at Mynttorget close to the Gate. If you stand to the west of the markings of the Gate at Mynttorget you are probably very close to where the decapitations took place.
For those who didn't got sentence to either be hangedor decapitated there was Kåken at Stortorget. This was a 5 meter high pole and at the top there was the statue called kopparmatte. It was a small statue of a man holding a bundle of twigs in his right arm, symbolizing the punishing justice. You can see him and Kåken on one of the pictures to the right. Kåken was moved from Stortorget and the Old Town in 1776.
Kåken was placed at the southwestern part of Stortorget, not far from where the street "Kåkbrinken" lead to Stortorget and have got its name from Kåken. To be sentence to Kåken meant that you have to stand tied to the pole for a day or two and be humiliated by your fellow citizen. You could also be flogged there by the Axeman which was very popular to watch for the spectators.
Address: Mynttorget and Stortorget
2 - The Polish and Swedish King Sigismund I lived here
The House at Svartmangatan 6 was built in 1620 by the Lord High Treasurer Jesper Mattson Cruus and his wife Brita Pontisdotter de la Gardie. The House was built not only to be their private residence but also to be a residence for foregin ambassadors. An Ambassador at this time was not a permanent legation but rather one that trawelled around and only spent a limited time in each country.
In 1593 King Sigismund I (Son of King Johan III) comes to Sweden to negotiate about the Swedish crown after his fathers death the year before. Since he was a catholic (it was illegal and was punished by death) he was not allowed to stay at the Royal Castle, instead he most likely stayed in this house undtil 1594.
In 1594 he is crowned King of Sweden in the Cathedral of Uppsala and moves out from this house directly after the cornonation and into the Royal Castle. Later the same year he trawells back to Poland and in 1599 he was dethrone but made claims on the Swedish Crown for the rest of his life. This was also made by his children which caused a number of wars between Sweden and Poland.
Address: Svartmangatan 6
3 - Café International
Café International was where socialist, workers and students hang out at the end of the 19:th century.
Here was the room "Nästet" (the Nest) where a number of organizations was formed. The owner of Café International was Anders Olsson, a shoemaker journeyman. He was influenced by the socialist ideas during his trips to Europe and decided to get a place where people with similar ideas could meet..
IF Metall was founded at Café International, May 28:th in 1888. They merge with some other small unions and in 1913 the change their name to Svenska Metallindustriarbetarförbundet (The Swedish Metalworkers Union). After some more mergers they finaly form todays IF Metall in 2006.
Stockholms Socialdemokratiska Arbetarklubb (The Stockholm Socialdemocrat Workers Union) was founded August 8.th in 1884 at Cafe International. Sveriges Socialdemokratiska Arbetarparti (the Swedish Socialdemocrat Party) was founded only 5 years later in April 23:rd 1889.
Address: Svatmangatan 11
4 - Drainage in the old times
Drainage has allways existied, either planned or unplanned. Until 1870 the drainage was comming out from the houses and went directly into the streets.
In the 16:th century the it went straight out into the steet and there was nothing to carry it on from there. They said that you could smell Stockholm for miles before you could see it.
In the 18:th century the drainage was covered on the street with wodden benches, they where called gush benches due to the gushing from the drainage beneath them.
A few houses in the Old Town still have their drainage visible for you to see, don't worry they dont use them anymore. One such place is at Nygränd 2 where the drainage is visible to the left of the gate, you can also see this on one of photos to the right.
Address: Nygränd 2
5 - The first Jewish Synagogue
In 1790 King Gustav III gave the Jewish congregation in Stockholm the right to freely practice their religion in their own synagogue. They purchased the House at Själagårdsgatan 17 and turned the room on the 1:st floor into a synagogue including a gallery for the women that still can be seen through the windows from the street today.
Druing 1770 - 1790 the jews had a congregation hall close to Köpmantorget but in 1790 they could move into their own synagogue where they stayed until 1870 when they moved to a new puposebuilt synagogue close to the city centre.
Address: Själagårdsgatan 19
6 - The House of David Klöckner Ehrenstral
David Klöcker Ehrenstrahl (1628 - 1698) was one of the leading painter at the Royal Court in the 17:th century. He have created famous paintings such as the painting in the ceiling of t he Main Hall of the House of the Nobility showing Mother Svea surrounded by the virtues.
In the Cathedral we can see the most famous of his paintings, The Final Judgment and Krist Crucifixion, both in gigant scale.
In the middle of the 18:th century there is a famous Wine Cellar in the house where Carl Michael Bellman is often seen with Tobias Sergel and Erik Palmstedt. Druing the second half of the 18.th century the house was taken over by the German Church and today its a part of the Cathedral School.
7 - The birthplace of Carl Larsson
The famous Swedish painter Carl Larsson was born here at Prästgatan 78, May 28:th in 1853. His parents had an Inn where no alcohol was served, well during this time in Stockholm this was not a very profitable idea and they soon whent bancrupt.
Carl Larsson father left the family at the bankruptcy and young Carl and his mother where thrown out on the steet. Not the best of starts in life. But, when he was 13 years old he applied for the Royal Swedish Academy of Fine Arts and managed to be accepted. His economy was however not very strong and he had to work at a photografer at the same time as he studied to get by.
In 1877, when he was 24 year old, he trawelled to Paris where he stayed as short while and without success. This would change in the 1880 when he painted a serie of famous paintings. One of them was the very well know painting where Gustav Vasa enters Stockholm in 1523 and now can be seen at the National Museum.
Address: Prästgatan 78
8 - The narrowest alley in the Old Town
Mårten Trotzigs alley is the only preserved narrow stepp alley in the Old Town today. It has gotten its name from the merchant Mårten Trotzig who lived in the alley in the end of the 16.th century. He was one of the wealthiest merhants in Stockholm at that time.
Address: Mårten Trotzigs gränd
9 - The Gyldene Freden
Gyldene Freden(The Golden Peace) is the oldest restaurant in the Old Town (and Stockholm) that has been active without interruption, it was founded in 1722.
The Restaurant is know by the fact that the Swedish Academny allways have a meal here on Thursdays, they also are the owners. In the early 20.th century this was the meeting place for the Swedish Art Nobility with the very well know Swedish painter Anders Zorn as the front person. During a period of great trouble for the restaurant he bougth is and thereby saved it for the future.
Ther has been many famouse Swedish artists using this restaurants as almost their homes Carl Michael Bellman, Evert Taube, Fred Åkerström and Cornelius Vreeswijk are only a few of them. Conelius Vreeswijk even sings about the restaurant in the songs "Polaren Pär hos det sociala" and "På den Gyldene Freden".
Address: Österlånggatan 51
10 & 25 - Where the National Bank started
The Swedish National Bank started in 1668 and became the first National Bank in the world. From 1668 until 1682 it was located in Axel Oxenstiernas Palace next to the Royal Castle. In 1682 the National Bank moves to the new purpose built house at Järntorget, Bancohuset. The Bank stays there for 224 years until it moves in 1907 to the new building opposite the Parliament at Helgeandsholmen. In 1976 the house is needed by the Parliament (today it's called the West Wing) and the National Bank moves to Brunkebergstorg på Norrmalm.
When the Swedish National Bank was founded in 1668 it became the worlds first National Bank. But it was not the first Bank in Sweden. A few years earlier Stockholm Banco was founded but it when bancrupt in 1667 and this was the cause to form the National Bank one year later.
One thing that was unique with the Swedish National Bank, beside being the first, was that it was not under the control of the King but the Parliament. This meant that the Swedish economy was more under the control of the Parliament than under the King, and that was truly unique in the world at this time.
Address: Storkyrkobrinken 2 and Järntorget 84
11 - Carl von Linné was living here
Carl von Linné, the world famous botanist, physician, and zoologist opend a practice in this house in 1739 and stayed until 1742 when he became a professor at the University of Uppsala
During his 4 years he got most of the higher society in Stockholm as clients. He was also apointed Medical doctor of the Admiralty and was a co-founder of the Royal Swedish Academy of Science. A medallion of him can be seen on the wall of the Räntmästar House.
Address: The Räntmästar House at Slussplan 9
12 - Prince Bagrationi was held captive here
In 1701 a number of prisoner of war from the Great Nordic War arrived to Stockholm. The most prominent of them all was Prince Alexander Bagrationi. He lived in captivity in Räntmästarhuset util 1711 when he was exchanged for Count Carl Piper. A medallion of him can be seen on the wall of the Räntmästar House and it says the following (free translation from Swedish):
In this building, during 1701 - 1710, lived as prisoner of war the famous georgian poet and general Prince Aleksandr Artjlovitj Bagrationi (1674-1711). He was a private friend of Tsar Peter I and brother in arm. He was exchanged for Count Carl Piper, a prisoner of war in Russia.
Address: Räntmästarhuset på Slussplan 7
13 - The backward statue
In 1854 the square if King Carl XIV Johan was inaugurated and the statue of King Carl XIV Johan arriving to Stockholm was also inagurated. This was done by his son, King Oscar I. The statue was placed in the position of arriving to Stockholm which is symbolized.
During the 1930 the square was rebuilt to enable more space for roads and the lock due to more trafic, both on land and at sea. For some reason the statue was turned the wrong direction and now the King was leaving Stockholm instead of arriving. There are those who says this was due to the reason that the King turned his back to Finland that was lost in the war with Russia in 1809. One reason for electing the former French Marshal as King of Sweden was that he should recover Finland which he never did. Whatever the reason, he still has his face leaving Stockholm instead of arriving, he is turned backwards.
Address: Karl Johan torget
14 - The birthplace of the newspaper Aftonbladet
In 1830 the first issue of Aftonbladet was published, the oldest newspaper stil printed in Sweden today. The founder was Lars Johan Hierta (1801 - 1872) who also was a member of the Paliament as a respresentative for the Nobility.
Aftonbladet was something new in the publishing industry with both a commercial and political profile at the same time. It very quickly became the choice for the middle class and was a major pusher for the Freedom of the Press in 1838 when the press was established as the 3:rd power of State.
The newspaper was started in the house at Lilla Nygatan 13 and in 1863 Aftonbladet got their own building at Munkbrogatan 8 where both the editorial staff and the printing works where located. They stayed there until 1888 when they moved to Klara on Norrmalm.
Address: Lilla Nygatan 13
15 - The birthplace of the newspaper Dagens Nyheter
In 1864, as a reaction to the socialist and jacobine newspapers, Dagens Nyheter saw it first daylight. The man behind Dagens Nyheter was Rudolf Wall, a fomer employee at Aftonbladet. Dagens Nyheter is today the biggest morning newspaper in Sweden.
The newspaper established itself as the peoples newspaper and was sometimes called "Madame Andersson" during the early years. This was after the fish selling women at Munkbrohamnen since no politics was published and the focus was in news, ads and curios. Not very serious according to some.
During the first year Dagens Nyheter had its editorial staff and printing works at Riddarholmen in the Gueijer House but was forced to move when the Sammanbindingsbanan (The Connection Line) was being built and the house was demolished. In 1865 Dagens Nyheter moves to new facilities at Stora Nygatan 16. The newspaper was very "easy going" and became very popular quickly, and it was the first morning newspaper in Sweden. In 1874 the Editorial Staff and the Printing works moved from the Old Town to Regeringsgatan at Normalm.
Address: Stora Nygatan 16
17 & 18 - See a 14:th Century House
There aint many 14:th century houses preserved, churches yes but not houses where ordinary people where living.
At Stora Gråmunkgränd 5 there is such a house. In red the medival bricks are highly visible including window arches etc. In the medival times this house was located very close to the Gråmunke Gate in the western wall. Through this gate and passing the house was the main street connecting the monastery at Riddarholmen witht the city centre. This means that the friars where passing this house every day many hundreds of years ago.
The where probably a cottage hospital in the House since this is mentioned in written documents in 1498. The House was rebuilt in the 16:th century but the wall facing the street are still intact from the time when the house was built. You can clearly see the sharp window archers and slight widening of the 1:st floor. The later was due to that it was very crowded in the streets in the medival times and the the building permit was limited. However, above the street level it was allowed to expand the house with one brick width. Not much but they did use that option.
At Västerlånggatan 29 ther is a Row of Gothic Windows from the 14:th century, one floor above the street. You can see it on the photo to the right. It has fish bone shaped pattern. The House itself is built in the 18:th century so its just this part of the original wall that is preserved. It does however gives a good idea how the walls looked like when you where walking the medival streets.
Address: Västerlånggatan 29 and Stora Gråmunkegränd 5
19 - Bellmans Fredman
There is probably not a Swede that has not heard of Fredman, at least not in the interpretation of Carl Michael Bellman. The Fredmans Epistles (total 82) is where we will meet Ulla Winblad, Corporal Mollber, Father Movitz and others. He has also written Fredmans songs (total 65) but only 3 is about Fredman.
Some of the most loved ones are epistle no 71: "Ulla! min Ulla! säj får jag dig bjuda", epistle no 80: "Liksom en Herdinna, högtids klädd" and epistle no 82 "Hvila vid denna källa".
The Fredmans epistles describes a very real person, Johan Fredrik Fredman. Born in 1712 and dead in 1767.
Fredman became a watchmaker; master in 1736 and was elected the master of the guild in 1741. He was well of and owned several real estates in the city. In 1745 he was appointed purveyor to His Majesty the King and was given the responsibility for the clocks in the Cathedral and the House of Nobility.
In 1745 he marries Katarina Lindberg but the marriage turns out bad and they are divorced where he is accused of embezzled her money. She dies in 1752 and this is when it start going downhill for Fredman. He neglects most things and is accused of stealing money from the Guild which he then is excluded from. He losed the position as purveyor to His Majesty the King and losing his responsibility for the clocks or the Cathedral and the House of Nobility.
In 1760 ha is an alcoholic and without any place to live, his last years are spent on the pubs and bars. This sad story is however for Carl Michael Bellman a great inspiration for writing songs, or rather epistles. One of the first songs he write is about the funeral of Fredman in 1767 (its later no 26 i the Epistles).
Fredman had hos workshop at Gråmunkegränd 12, in the corner against Munkbroleden.
Address: The Bergstrahl House at Stora Gråmunkegränd.
20 - The birthplace of August Strindberg
August Strindberg was born in 1879 at Sundhetskollegiet House, a building from 1750 at Riddarholmen that was demolished in 1863. The location was between the old Auktionsverket and the Wrangels Palace. DIt was originally built as a bakery for the Wrangel Palace where the Royal Family where living after the Royal Palace was destroyed in the fire of 1697 and before the new Royal Palace was ready in 1754. You can see how the house looked like on the drawing made by his brother Axel to the right.
August was raised together with his 7 borthers and sisters on Riddarholmen, at this time a place where the steam ships operating on the lake Mälaren berthed. The demolished home of his childhood in 1863 child influenced Strindberg later in life to write the play "Den Brända Tomten" (The burnt plot of land) in 1907.
The family lived at Riddarholmen since his father was a steam boat agent and responsible for the freights on the steam boats.
August Strindberg is regarded as one of the most important Swedish writers.
Address: Auktionsverket vid Norra Riddarholmshamnen
21 - This is where they killed Axel von Fersen
In 1809 the Swedish King Gustav IV Adolf is dethrone in a military coup following the disastrous war aginst Russia where Finland is lost. As his successor, his uncle, King Karl XIII is old and has no children the danish prince Kristian August is elected Crownprince. He becomes very quickly popular.
But disaster strucks and in May 28:th in 1810 the Crownprince dies by stroke during a military exersise. This is the start of the tragic circus where the Marshal of the Realm Axel von Fersen and his sister Sophie is accused of having poisoned him.
Axel von Fersen was not just the migthiest man in Sweden he was also the man who orgainized the escape of the French King Louis XIV and Queen Marie Antoniette in 1791 which was not successful. The rumors says he was the lover of the Queen. He was also involved in the American Revolution and became a an original member of The Society of the Cincinnati and much more.
When the the coffin with the Crownprince came back to Stockholm for a State Funeral, the procession is followed by the wagon with Axel von Fersen and now the angry mob starts to throw stones and other items at his wagon, several hits him.
When the procession reach the Old Town Axel von Fersen has to break off his journey and seek protection in the Hultgren House together with the Marshal of the Court Issak Lars Slifversparre. Soon the situation surrounding the House became to dangerous and they decided to run to the Bonde Palace for safety. On the way there the got separated and when Axel von Fersen reach the staircase into the Bonde Palace the mob finaly caught up with him. He is killed by the mob at the staricase only a few meters from the Guard who don't do anything to save him.
One of the reasons for his impopularity was the he was the advocate for a continue Royal Autocracy. He hade supported the son of King Gustav IV Adolf, Gustav, to be elected king instead of the popular Kristian August. Neither was very popular among the people.
Address: The Staircase of the Bondes Palace, Riddarhustorget 8
23 - The vanished 3 alleys that you still can see
The Administration House of the Parliament opened in 1951 and was designed by Artur von Schmalensee. The House is so large that it takes the space of previous 4 blocks and 3 alleys. The houses in these blocks where very old and not in the best condition but never the less there where huge protests when the demolishing started. To accomodate the people in the Old Town the alleys where preserved as much as possible and you can still see the vanished alleys today as passages between Västerlånggatan and the Branting square, at the centre of the House. The passages still has the original stone paving and width. They are:
Stenbastugränd: (Stone Sauna Alley) The name comes from the Sauna made in stone that actually was loacated at the alley in the 1440.
Klockgjutargränd: (Bell Founder Alley) the name comes from the german bell founder Jurgen Putens who lived in the alley in 1650. 2 of the Cathedral bells are casted by him.
Kolmätargränd: (Coal Measure Alley) The name has nothing to do with measuring coal, its rather a twist of the name of Hans Kohlmeter who lived in the alley in 1650-talet. Kolmätargränd = Kohlmeter, sounds similar and thats from where the name originates.
Address: Västerlånggatan 8 - 12
24 - Attic storage
Space was scarced in the Old Town, now and then. The merchants was however forced to have their storage somewhere and the best place was the attic. Here there was space unused and it was also far away from the streets and people who could steal the gods.
At Prästgatan, close to Storkyrkobrinken, you can see several attic lifts outside the attics. They where used to get the gods in and out the attic and into the street. In the medival times this was a very common feature to be seen on many houses
Address: Prästgatan, close to Storkyrkobrinken.