Suède Vasa ( English Version)

Article écrit par : Claude Balmefrezol

Mis en ligne le 30/10/2008 à 07:57:32



RegalSkeppet Vasa
French Version
  After God, the prosperity of a nation depends on its marine Gustav II Adolf


The Sweden in the early seventeenth century
We are very early in the Thirty Years War what bloodshed Central Europe and especially Germany

In 1617, she begin in Germany between Catholics and Protestants. The Sweden which is a Protestant nation intervenes in the war to protect its interests and prevent that Catholics can not win and import the Catholic faith in Sweden
France remains out of the conflict because it has problems with his own Protestants who are fighting againts  Richelieu
Gustave Vasa died in 1560, leaving the throne to his eldest son Erik XIV, which must give power to his younger John III in 1569. Between 1592 and 1599 the throne is occuped by the  King of Poland (Catholic) Sigismund I It is dethroned and is replaced on the throne in 1607 by Charles IX, which had previously been vice king
Gustav  His son succeeds  to him in 1611 at the age of 17 and he took the name of Gustav II Adolf and would become a major king in Europe.
Sweden is becoming a major power of northern Europe. In effect following the breakdown of the union with Denmark and Norway in 1521, Sweden wants to control Baltic Sea. This causes a permanent conflict with Denmark Russia and Poland  because these two countries also have a coastline on the Baltic Sea
As Sweden  seek to control communication channels trougth Western Europe they want to be Also present in the plains of northern Europe as the Poles and the Russians
In effect at the beginning of the sixteenth century Sweden is a country isolated economically and agricultural. but it quickly change with the arrival of Gustav Vasa. Fertile lands are conquered
The political power of Sweden will increase to reach its peak with Gustav II Adolf who is entering Sweden in the big states court
To have the means of its policy Gustav II Adolf has a powerful army and also wants to have a Navy that is the best in the World.
We therefore find the birth certificate of the Vasa. But first and foremost thing is that Vasa?
Gustav Vasa (1496 1560) 
King Gustav I known as Gustav Vasa was born May 12th  1496 under the name of Gustav Erikson. He is the founder of the Royal House of Vasa who reigned over Sweden to XVII°century
It is an enigmatic figure a national hero doubled of a tyrant  
He is the son of a member of the Swedish nobility who was executed in 1521 during the days called bloodbath of Stockholm which was a massacre that followed the invasion of Sweden by the Danish  of Christian II  between 4 and 10 November 1520
In 1521 he became the head of the rebellion against Christian II and in 1521 he was elected Regent following the defeat of troops of Christian II.
In 1523 he became king of Sweden he leads a kingdom of iron hand imposing, the Protestant religion and power concentrated in the hands of sovereign It was under his reign that were laid the foundations of the Swedish national State . The church was nationalized, its property confiscated by the state and Protestant reform gradually carried out. The administration was reorganized in 1544 the monarchy is not elective but hereditary and depriving the nobility of its power He died on September 29, 1560
It is considered by the Swedes as the father of the Nation

 The Vasa
The Vasa was  a mythical vessel which is the only seventeenth century original warship to be able to visit today
Why? by sheer bad luck because the vessel sank on its maiden voyage on August 10th  1628 to be rediscovered in 1956 by Anders Franzen and refloated in 1961
After treatment of more than 15 years during which he was treated chemically to prevent rotting, it was transformed in a museum in  the port of Stockholm


Men  sail since antiquity. The first engravings boats are Egyptian  It follows a line of boats, but it is not my intention in this article to portray the history of these vessels;
 So I will skip 2 millennia for landing on the 15th  century and the period known as the Renaissance  which begins in Italy in Florence and also in Venice;
The movement, called Rinascimento, taking shape in the  Trecento (XIV° century) and won the rest of Europe in the fifteenth century.
This movement is marked by abundance of (re) discovery and to stay in the marine field I will quote the rudder compass charts. This development will lead to large shipments that will see the birth of the great merchants empires who will need to be defended by military vessels
In point of view naval renaissance sees the emergence of merchant ships as the caravel who comes from a fishing boat, maneuvering and robust
This caravel in the hands of good sailors  will be teh spearheaded of major expeditions like that of Christopher Columbus who discovered America with 3 caravels. The caravel had a tonnage of 60 to 200 tons and could be equipped with sails (triangular) or rectangular. Its length was about 20 metres.
Caravelle (Internet )
The caravel will later move to Great caravel or caraque that appears in the late fifteenth century.
It has front and rear castles  very high and 3 or 4 mats . Caraques could be armed with guns. The logical caraque  continuation was the galleon. This type of vessel is often associated with Spain to explore the new world and the Caribbean pirates   
But the galleon. does not completely replace the caraque which continues to sail until the end of the XVI° century. The galleon is very large It can measure up to 70 metres long for a tonnage of over 1000 tonnes The galleon seems to be born in Spain and it went very quickly spread to Europe around the middle of the 16th century. It is a boat first place in the fleets of major powers
The caravel and the Caraque had inappropriate and ineffective forms (potbellied  and low on water) while the galleon has a more tapered hull which allows a better flow of water around the boat and thus reduces resistance to
progression  .Ship becomes more maneuverable and better place in the sea
 Flor del Mar  HMS Grand Mistress
 Grande caraque de Malte  HMS Great Harry
 San Matteo  Sao Gabriel

In addition, the Galion has a stern plane and not rounded which helps support the weight of the quarterdeck rear castle  The quarterdeck forwar castle is dropped, which improves performance  of the vessel  especially when he sail near of the coast . Progressive changes in the sails also contribute to improving the performance of the boat.
This is one reason why the galleon plays a major role from the XVI° century
Caraques and  galleons will be instruments of these major expeditions with the Portuguese, Spanish and after Dutch.
But Spain, at the end of the XVth is no longer the dominant power in Europe
France and England are kingdoms who have powerful vessels.
The rulers had understood that these vessels were brand power and prestige. The race to greatness began,
But this quest for greatness had a very specific meaning
The guns of the ships XVI ° have a range that did not exceed 1500 m. The boats fought at distances very reduced by as much as the precision of weapons was very bad. It was therefore necessary to have a ship bigger and taller than his opponent to bring more guns
The other important point for the battles of that time was poor manoeuvrability of vessels (wind problem ). Being upwind at the start of the battle proved very often be an advantage determining the outcome of the battle, even if the enemy fleet was larger. Once the battle commenced, the tactic used was to reduce the maneuverability of enemy ships. The gunners then sought to destroy their masts or purported the waterline to sink the boat but often the vessel was keep by boarding
 HMS Royal Prince  Le Saint Louis
 Le San Juan  HMS Sovereign of the Seas

The France with the Saint Louis and England with the Royal Prince had ships heavily armed and very richly decorated. King Gustav II Adolf having seen representations of these vessels ordered the construction of a similar galleon, but larger and more powerful
Thus was born the Vasa

The construction
In the XVI century to  build a fleet  king could have Finances, metallurgical industrie  wood, but also men and Engineers
The Sweden had it all this?
Under the leadership of Gustav Vasa and its successors had transformed Sweden at the end of the XVI ° in a modernizing society in various area.
Progress in the administration and growth of its trade involves money. This prosperity leads to dreams of power To be recognized as a major power requires a powerful army also the need to reform the army became apparent. . It was reorganized in depth with the creation of units lighter and better armed. It demonstrated its capabilities at the beginning of the war 30 years

Sweden is also endowed with a metal industry in order to melt the guns.
The Royal Navy
The Navy was modernized by the construction of a large number of warships largest and heavily armed. In the early seventeenth century Sweden, had a Navy with hundred small vessels poorly armed In 1620, Gustav II Adolf said that after God, the prosperity of a nation depends on its navy. The expansionist policies desired by the king on earth must therefore be matched by an identical policy on sea
So it must modernize the Swedish Navy .Vice Admiral Klas-Fleming therefore ordered the construction of 25 new vessels. The Navy was absolutely necessary to Sweden to conquered and protect new ports on the Baltic over these warships were also used for transporting troops for operation on the European continent and for operations blockade against the Danes Russians or Polish. In 1630, the Swedish navy vessels has 8  big ship (1 ranking ) and 21 smaller
  Unfortunately, 14 vessels were lost during storms between 1620 and 1625.
Also in 1625 the king ordered the construction of 4 boats: 2 big whose the Vasa and 2 smaller.

I make here a small parenthesis on the lives of sailors aboard warships in the Swedish early seventeenth century
The Swedish navy  sail only during the summer  and vessels return to port between September / October and remained there until April / May
Artillery and ammunition were landed Before a new campaign ships were inspected and repaired (fairing tarring, rigging and minor).
The artillery and ammunition were put on board with food (for two to three months)
The vessel could sail.
Life on board was very rude. Disobedience resulted in severe punishment. Example punishment for  simple protest dry bread and water for 10 days. Refusal to obey it makes you pass under the keel. Recidivism  and blasphemy were punished by death,
The crew sleep next to the cannons on deck and the lower deck. They slept in their clothes directly on the floor of the bridge. There were no blankets where mattresses. The hammock was not invented until 1676. The officers had a simple berth only the captain had a lewd cabin
The food on board included bread, grain, peas, meat and dried fish. With beer as a beverage
There were aboard three different kinds of beer. The 1st class reserved for senior officers. The 2nd  class for first officers. A simple beer with  water for the rest of the crew.
Disease was wreaking havoc on board (bad food, cold lack of hygiene) A sergeant barber acted as doctor. The crew consisted of a captain, assisted by two sub-lieutenants and 14 officers less than 12 artisans, 90 crewmen. This has 90 crewmen and 12 artisans under their orders to head the ship. For artillery a brigadier has  in charge the artillery assisted by two officers, two special masters and  20  special servants under his command with the help of 90 sailors
There was a cook, and 300 soldiers could board
For wood, Sweden is well provided with forest.Wood used for the construction of the vessels were from oak of the royal domain
It remained to find the men, but especially the engineers who had the skills to build boats And there as many countries are turning their eyes to the Netherlands because the Dutch had a very advanced technical knowledge to build vessels
But you must know that at the time, there was no clear plan for the construction of boats. The approximate schemes were designed to calculate the dimensions of vessels and especially to check the viability of the project plans or accounts were rough calculations on the dimensions of the ship, often kept secret by architects.
The construction began on land and after he was finished when the ship was  launched  because the technical means at the time did not permit the launching  of a ship fully completed  because of its heavy weight. In 1625, Sweden ordered the construction of four warships, two large and two smaller
It  was the Dutch architect Henrik Hybertsson who was chosen to build the vessel. The architect and his brother remained both in Stockholm
 Construction of the Vasa

  The construction should be made in  the Royal Stockholm arsenal which was a major industrial centre for the day with three hundred people Both large vessels receive the baptismal name of Vasa and Tre Kronor. They had to be built in four years. These two vessels belonged to the category known as the Royal ship (Regalskepp in Swedish). They will be the biggest ships of the Navy.
To build a Regalskepp 1000 oaks were necessary All  come from the royal forests that protected by law. The trunks were conveyed by river during the summer and pulled by horses  on ice in winter until the arsenal of Stockholm. .
The Vasa will be built in first in 1625 with the bow faced to the sea soon .As the ship can float, it will be launched to water and its construction completed dockside

 The Vasa ( Internet )

It is a ship of 1400 tons along 69m for a beam of 11.7 m .From the keel to the top of the main mast it has a height of 52.5 m is a 3 masts with 10 sails and a draught of 5m It has 64 guns and a crew of 3 officers, 14  first officers, 12 craftsmen, 90 crewmen and he can receive  300 soldiers on board .
 The Vasa ( internet)

But what is marking in the Vasa is its decoration

Why a warship with a span life was relatively short-if he decorated like that in the XVII and XVIII century?
With our modern mentality we would say that this is a mess. But we must live in this
  time  and learn a little traditions and beliefs of the time. The decorations have not only function to impress the observer but also to protect the ship
The decoration of the boats was very common and since Antiquity, boats are decorated with magic symbols and images of gods or spirits. The eyes  on the Greek trières mouths of monsters  on drakkars Viking These decorations were here to protect the crew and impress the enemy. It was a sort of psychological advantage.
In Sweden, the art at that time was influenced by the German and  Dutch Renaissance ,
directly inspired by the ancient Greco Roman  world
The Vasa was in some way be a showcase and an ambassador of Sweden.

We found now a brief description of the decorations bearing in mind that the Vasa that we see the museum will neverr be fully restored to its original state.
Modern scientifics does not restore the luster of yesteryear with the original colorful decorations
 Vasa decorations (internet )  Vasa decorations (internet )
  Vasa decorations (internet )   Vasa decorations (internet )
  Vasa decorations (internet )   Vasa decorations (internet )

First the quarter deck  of which is the master piece. It measures 20 metres high and  regroup the majority of the sculptures in the Vasa.
The upper pa
of the quarter deck of the  V
asa or arcasse is decorated with a carved arch, called smooth coronation stern, with Gustav Adolf surrounded by two young griffons supporting a royal crown over the head of the king. The Griffin was on the arms of his father, Karl IX.
This sculpture is an affirmation of royal lineage, especially  because  the cousin of  Gustav Adolf , Sigismund King of Poland, was proclaim as legitimate king of Sweden (he had been depose in 1599 because he was  Catholic)
Under the arcasse of the ship we found the coast of arms of the Kingdom of Sweden. Two lions draped surrounding the coat of arms engraved on a shield. All has 3.20 meters wide and 2 meters high, covered with gold leaf and painted. These are framed on each side by three warriors warring in typical armor of the XVIIth  The soldiers are Gothic kings  Gustav Adolf use this legend as what it was descending  from Goths who sacked Rome in 410

Further down the arms of Sweden,  we are the arms of the Vasa height of 1.50 meters. Surrounded by two cherubs A heavy drapery around the motive and ends with significant festoons of fruit. The two cherubs hold each an olive branch symbol of peace. The arms of the family Vasa are located at the commander's cabin level
At this level on the upper gallery of the castle we find Roman warriors. Who trace the life of Gideon leader of the Israelites who defeated an army superior in number
The assimilation of Gustav Adolf with Gideon is very clear.

Within the quarter deck   are cabins  for officers and for the commanding officer. The commander's cabin has windows equipped with glass tile, a luxury for the time booths are adorned with sculptures and painted less than the outdoor sculptures. There is much less a sculpture inside the ship
 Vasa arcades( Internet)

The style of decoration was the same as that of contemporary castles in Sweden The walls of the main cabin were decorated with panels separated by Hermes. Along the walls there were benches hanging that could turn into beds. . The cartridge main cabin of the Vasa represents two newts holding a crown. Two horns containing fruits are visible in the crown, symbols of prosperity and wealth. The crown symbolizes the king  and recalls that on the Vasa the admiral is the subject of the king on board.
The furniture is summarized at a table a few chairs and a wardrobe.
We end with the rear of the Vasa Fore castle
  and the statue of lion 1.50 meters heigth  standing on the hind legs, placed on a grotesque mask. It presents its rear panel is looking down, over his right shoulder. That is the virtue triumphing over vice King Gustav Adolf crushing the enemies of Sweden.
On each side of te quarter deck
  we can see two galleries double and richly decorated We are also galleries with statues of newts and sirens, (son and daughters of Poseidon and Nérée) There are also many statues representing men wild old symbols of the wild  nature and forest The wild men were a popular cause at this time , symbolizing the strength, sin and peevishness
On the turrets are placed Hermes and caryatids The central part of the hull is pierced by scuttle covered their faces internal  by faces of lions who symbolize the firepower of the Vasa. Their presence were intended to raise the morale of the crew  and frighten the enemies. Along the balusters sculptures representing Proteus and non-Poseidon;
Why? Because Denmark, rival of Sweden, had chosen Poseidon as protector of their vessels.
bows  of the fore castle was also richly decorated with many small sculptures and a figurehead representing a lion weighing more than 450kg. The bow of the vessel may be regarded as the most important part of the GARS The letters on the banner below on both sides of a cherub head, are the initials of King recorded latin and meaning: Gustavus Adolfus Rex Sueciae ( King Gustav Adolf of Sweden).
Vasa Head( Internet)

On the front of the bow is the head of 12 metres in length which is a large structure with only a decorative function,
It is richly decorated with statues of warrior of 2.50 metres tall. The warrior stands on a lion's head with a small dog has his feet. Before the warriors is a bearded triton
There are also two men hidden behind small low benches, and positioned to port and starboard, being mirror. These characters are Polish, who are punished because these sculptures refer to a punishment practised in Poland at that time. If a man had been badly led or had commit a crime, he was forced to crawl under a bench and barking like a dog in confessing these evil deeds. In addition to further humiliate the Polish poulaine is used as latrines
On the upper part of the head Roman emperors statues. placed chronologically begin with Tiberius, but there is no statue of Augustus on the building The reason?
two  Auguste  could not live on the same ship  
On the lower part of the head  there is a long horizontal frieze telling the stories of Greek mythology (myth of Pelee and Thetis)
And finally we find the head of a lion bow 4 metres long weighing 450 kg. It is in a position to attack Between these legs he holds a shield oval of the Vasa dynasty, which shows a sheaf of wheat surmounted by a crown. The lion is a heraldic symbol of Sweden and the shield with the symbol of a jet boat. The figure was originally gilded.
The sculptures represent human or plant
Hercules symbol of courage and strength. Or fruit a symbol of prosperity.
But we must also assert its power, therefore there are sculptures enough talking as a Polish one lap
In conclusion. a portion of the vessel statues glorifying the king and Sweden and the other a mission to protect the crew
But who is the engineer of this ship ?
It looks for former preceptors of the king, Johan Skytte and Johan Bureus for the desing of the  decor and 2 sculptors  one German Mårten Redtmer and a Dutch Johan Thesson
All this contrasts greatly with the outward appearance of the boat, but it is actually telling the living standards of the time

The sinking of the Vasa.

On August 10th  1628, the Vasa is preparing for its maiden voyage under the command of Söfring Hansson He hoisted the sails to the arsenal of Stockholm at 15 hours and headed to the east toward the archipelago of Stockholm. After firing a salvo of honour  a gust blowing from the south push the Vasa at talonner
Suddenly, a gust of wind going from the south gives an important lodging and water begins to return by the below sctuttle.  Feeling the ship look dangerously, the sailors on board while trying to recover the balance, but their efforts are not enough, and the Vasa sank by 30 m deep carrying 50 victims with him  
Water of the bay being crystal clear  you could see  the rest ship
He was sunk just  near  the small island of Beckholmen

The aftermath of the sinking
The survey concludes that the ballast was insufficient and poorly proportioned boat. But who is to blame ?
At the King who had asked when the construction had already begun, adding an extra deck guns.
At the architect who had only one deck guns and would have to rebuild the vessel so that it can navigate safely. The ports of the low-battery is too low on water
But bound by the time he overrule, In fact he died before the completion of the vessel which was completed by his deputy. Moreover, the king, who fought in Poland, had ordered that the Vasa make sailing anyway and should support a blockade operation
By the way, nobody was held responsible for the sinking at the end of the trial.

Soon we tried to save what could be. Ian Bulmer an English tried to refloat but it was a failure Remain to  recover 80tone of guns . Finally nearly forty years later between 1662 and 1663 two Sweden Hans Albrecht von Treileben and Andreas Peckbell with a diving bell and recovere  most guns
The wreckage sank into oblivion only the main mast during 100 years marked the location of wreck

The bailout and the Vasa now
 Internet   Internet

In 1956, an archaeolog Anders Franzén find againt the position of the Vasa. Miraculously the hull was intact and in the summer of 1961 the Vasa was refloated with the help of the Swedish navy and a private company Neptunbolaget. After the various works of consolidation and waterproof of the hull on April 21st  1961 Vasa reviewing the light with the aid of the two pontoons.
Then a race against the clock, began to preserve and after restore the ship Also the Vasa was sprayed with a chemical solution of PEG composed of polyethylene glycol Then boric acid and borax were added to prevent rotting wood. And this for 18 years, thanks to an automatic sprinkler system introduced in 1965 all the elements of wood seconded were placed in ponds for treatment.
The excavations around the wreckage were allowed to bring many surfaces
In 1990, the preliminary phases have been completed and the ship can accommodate its new jewel in the Vasa Museum in Vasavarvet which allows it to be stored under ideal conditions.
The Vasa is currently the only original warship fully preserved ot the 17th century
The English are restoring the Mary Rose but dated XVI century

The chance of the Vasa was the sinking during his maiden voyage.This shipwreck enabled him to resist at the  time. If the Vasa had not sunk in Stockholm, he probably would have been lost during a naval battle or have been dismantled at the end of his life.
  It would have been no trace of him other than representations

Tonnage: 1400 tons of which ballast: 120 tons
Crew: 3 officers, 14 officers, 12 craftsmen, 90 sailors, 300 soldiers
Length 69m
Maximum beam: 11.7 m
Higth from the keel to the top of the main mast: 52.5 m
Draught: 5m
Three masts: fore sail  mast at the front and main mast mizzen mast at the rear
Number of sails: 10
Number of guns: 64





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