"Building is our greatest desire!"
Much of what was built during the period of the Vasa kings (1521–1611) was in fact redevelopment of Medieval buildings: the castles in Kalmar, Örebro, Västerås, Nyköping and Läckö and the Varberg and Bohus fortresses. New projects were few and far between, with Vadstena Castle a notable exception. Some Medieval buildings later came into Crown ownership, including Vadstena Abbey, Roma Abbey and Riddarholmen Church.
Gustav Vasa and his three sons, Erik XIV, Johan III and Karl IX, established centralised power in Sweden. The transformation of Sweden was carried out with great determination. Older cultural patterns, such as monasteries, were crushed during the Reformation to achieve the new objectives, one of the most important of which was the construction of strategic fortresses. Gradually, it also became a requirement that the royal family could periodically live in the fortresses. In consultation with the regional governors, it was the kings who pushed forward this construction work and had a major influence over the design. Johan III in particular took architecture immensely seriously, and was famed
for his motto: "Building is our greatest desire!" A cadre of architects was called in. Most came from Germany and Holland, including Willem Boy and the Pahr brothers, but the ideals came from Italy. Architectural historians have called it "a complete capitulation
to everything Italian." Taking into account our building materials and special climate, what was created was perhaps Sweden's first independent architectural style: the Nordic Renaissance. Building work was at its most intensive in the mid- 16th century. The greatest project from that time, the redesign of the Tre Kronor castle in Stockholm, was
destroyed in a fire in 1697, but the castles in Kalmar, Gripsholm, Uppsala, Västerås and Vadstena still bear testament to the enormous efforts of the Vasa kings.