Fredericia a Fortified Town of Historical Importance
By tradition Danish kings have the names Christian or Frederik. Fredericia is named after one of the Frederiks but which one?
Fredericia is a relatively newly founded town by Danish standards and only about 350 years old. Fredericia was built on the small peninsula Bersodde in the years following 1649. In 1650 king Frederik III signed a document on December the 16th, granting Fredericia market town privileges, which in Danish is called købstadsprivilegier. To help stimulate the growth of the new town, the king granted the citizens the right to build without further permission within the town ramparts, as well as a 10-year tax and duty exemption followed by a period of further 20 years with only half tax. There was a policy of religious tolerance in Fredericia - French Hugenottes were invited to settle, also Jews and Catholics were welcome even though Denmark was a strictly Lutheran realm.
First Frederiksodde, now Fredericia - one and the same
Originally the town was named Frederiksodde but a few years later on April 22nd 1664 the name was changed to Fredericia, it's present name. Today Fredericia is best known for its function as a railway hub, connecting the main line going north-south with the one going east-west across Denmark. Back in 1650 there were other considerations and motivations. Denmark had suffered from partial occupation by the Swedish troops during the 30 Years' War and in case of another war would still not be able to protecting Jutland from the strong Swedish forces stationed in Northern Germany. Something had to be done. Frederik III set out to secure North Jutland by establishing a fortress that could also secure the Little Belt and the passage between Jutland and Funen.
The gates in Fredericia are largely intact and the ramparts still encircle the historic city centre, where the streets run perpendicular to each other. For those who have not yet had a pit stop in Fredericia, it is worth considering as Fredericia is an interesting place - the harbour and the beach facing Lillebælt also merit a visit.
I can tell you about Fredericia but it is much better to actually go and see for yourself. There is always the option also to go on a guided tour. That way you get the main points of interest pointed out to you and explanations and stories at the same time.
The Battle at Fredericia
As you already know Fredericia was founded as a fortress town. Therefore it should not be a surprise to you that the town has been attacked several times. The first attack was by the Swedes in 1656-57 and the garrison was massacred. Another important battle is called "Udfaldet fra Fredericia"- the counter-attack of Fredericia, July 6th 1849.
This battle was a turning point of the 3-year war also known as the 1.st Schleswigian War. Denmark was at war with the Schleswig-Holsteinians, present day North Germany which at the time was part of the Danish realm. The royal army was outnumbered, so a garrison was left at Fredericia while the rest of the field army slowly retreated northwards, with a large part of the attacking army in pursuit. Schleswig-Holsteinians laid siege to Fredericia ramparts and the outlook for the barricaded, outnumbered Danes inside the fortress was poor. A number of officers under the leadership of General Rye had come up with a devious plan however.
To defend Jutland against the enemy
The Danish army with several thousand retreated northward to the Helgenæs peninsula, where entrenchments had been prepared at a very narrow place, easy to defend, hard to attack and with deep water near the coast.
The ships were ready. The soldiers were sailed to Fredericia and landed. The enemy troops were left with a long nose in front of General Rye's redoubts, approx. 150 km. from Fredericia. By sea, the Danish army was supplied with several thousand men. Although it did not go unnoticed by the Schleswig-Holsteins, they had no idea how many soldiers the Danish force in Fredericia had actually received.
The Danish generals decided to counter-attack at night, which was completely unheard of at the time. Under the cover of darkness, the Danish soldiers attacked the Schleswig-Holsteinians, who were unprepared.
There were heavy losses on both sides, but the surprise attack turned into a victory. The besieging army had to withdraw further south and the thousands of soldiers standing before the entrenchments at Helgenæs were in grave danger of being cut off and destroyed and consequently also made a hasty retreat.
Unfortunately General Rye fell during the battle. To honour him, even to this day whenever a Danish soldier is killed in action, it is said that he has joined the brigade of general Rye. Streets are named after the general in 7 towns and in Fredericia a square is named in his honour.
A monument to soldiers
One of Fredericia's landmarks is the statue of the brave private called Den Tapre Landsoldat. It stands in a small square just outside the gate Prinsens Port outside the ramparts. This is in honour of the common people and the individual soldiers who risked their lives in this battle. If you visit Fredericia on July 6th, you can expect historic parade with actors dressed as soldiers and burghers in 1849.
The fortress town of Fredericia has thus played an important role in Danish history, and the town is rightly proud of that. Visit Fredericia on 6 July where you can experience processions in the town, with actors dressed in copies of the costumes of the time.
The Past is everywhere in Fredericia
When you walk the streets of Fredericia and read the street signs, you will see names such as Bülow, Rye, de Meza and Lunding. These are the names of the four most important generals and military personel from the war of 1848-1851.
I find it fascinating that a town this young holds so much history - and that the history is so present in everyday life. If you like history and military history in particular, Fredericia is the perfect town to visit. Perhaps the ramparts are most impressive as they are amongst the largest and most well-preserved ramparts in Northern Europe. The ramparts are complete with moats, cannons, bastions and ravelines, but today they form a peaceful and beautiful setting around Fredericia's city centre. It is now
Building a fortress town in the way Fredericia was built is however, an exception. The fortress was built before the town. In most Danish fortress towns, the town came first, and the fortress later, because it had to protect the town.
The Ramparts of Fredericia
The ramparts are a sufficient reason to come and visit Fredericia. Today the former fortress is one of Denmark's largest parks. You have almost 16 km of paths that go round, across, through and along the ramparts and provide ample opportunity for walks and to explore. In recent years the number of trees on the sloping lawns is increasing, but when the ramparts were still part of a fortress, obviously there were no trees. After 1864 the fortress was obsolete, so it was decommissioned in 1909.
In 1917 ramparts got a Grade A listing. Today the ramparts are a good place for a family outing whether for the youngest who might want to just play or for the adults who can better imagine how Danes in the past fought here to protect their country. If you would like to hear more about the fascinating history, I suggest that you go on a guided tour so you can gain the most from your day out.
Citizens 1849, an association of people interested in history
There is a lot of history to be revealed behind the Fredericia ramparts. If you hit the right day you can even experience the history reenacted. A group of volunteers called Borger 1849, Citizens of 1849, is a group of Fredericians with a keen interest in history who help to bring alive Fredericia's history with reenacting it. They give performances of what people looked like in Fredericia in 1849 at the time around the battle of Fredericia. If you want to be sure to see the parade of Borger 1849 in their beautiful costumes plan to visit on July 5th or 6th as they parade the streets of Fredericia.
You can also experience members of Borger 1849 in other contexts, when they show their historic costumes to help convey the city's history. You have ample opportunity when cruise ships call at the port of Fredericia or during events such as the Tall Ships Race. If you want to experience the history of Denmark brought to life, the Borger 1849 and Fredericia can definitely add to the experience.
Much more than war history
Without a doubt history plays a central role when it comes to experiencing Fredericia. But the town has so much more to offer besides to the history of wars and the ramparts. Modern Fredericia is an expanding town with new initiatives popping up all over. At present around 51,000 people live in Fredericia and the population grows constantly. The explanation is economic growth.
A place where you can clearly see the urban development of Fredericia is by the harbour, where the central part is the new district Kanalbyen, the Canal Town. When King Frederik III founded the town, he had an ambition to integrate canals like in Venice. Among other things you can also find several good restaurants in Kanalbyen in Fredericia. One of them is already a Michelin restaurant, the restaurant Ti Trin Ned, Ten Steps Down, which received its one star in 2017.
The harbour in Fredericia is a place with life. Citizena of 1849 who appear, for example when a cruise ship docks. The docking of cruise ships have become a big thing in Fredericia. The city has a perfect location with beautiful scenery by the Little Belt and a fiord and harbour with sufficient depth. This makes the city an obvious destination for cruise ships - as the city has so much to offer.
Lillebælt Nature Park is one of Denmark's largest nature parks. Because the Lillebælt offers great variety with shallow as well as deep areas, it creates a good setting for the world's densest population of porpoises. The porpoises you can experience best on a whale safari from either Fredericia or Middelfart.
Watch the Little Belt Strait From Above
Let's end our tour of Fredericia from above. Because of its location Fredericia it has two bridges across the Little Belt. Today, the new bridge, the motorway bridge, is undoubtedly the busiest. But on the old bridge you can do something that you can't on the new one.
On the old bridge you can bridge climb. You can walk along the top of the bridge at a height of 60 meters. For reasons of safety this is only allowed in formalized groups. From the top of the bridge you have a great view of the new bridge, the rest of the Little Belt, large parts of the island Funen and a nice view into the peninsular Jutland. You must be moderately physically fit to climb the bridge as you will walk a total of close to 2500 meters and climb a lot of stairs. But it is definitely worth a visit. While on the bridge you are clicked onto a wire. Safety is important while your guide talks about history, the architecture of the bridge, how it was built and about the surrounding nature and while you enjoy the amazing panorama.
Bridge climbing is a good way to end your day in Fredericia, but if you can cope with just a bit more culture, I suggest that you continue on to Middelfart and finish your day at the CLAY Museum of Ceramic Art. In the "Treasure Chamber" you can admire the world's largest and finest exhibition of royal Danish porcelain. Furthermore has on show ceramic works of art by Danish artisans - and not least you can enjoy a nice cup of coffee or tea in the café with yet another relaxing and beautiful view of the Little Belt.
We are happy to say visit Fredericia with Guide Service Denmark and our guide service Jutland
Hovedvagten og Prinsens Port. Foto: Nico-dk. Licens CC BY-SA 3.0.
Openstreetmap. License: Public Domain