Fredericia - a piece of Danish history

Until 1650, there was just a bare piece of land at the narrowest point of the Little Belt. After a number of unsuccessful wars, not least the Thirty Years War (1618 1648), the peninsula in the Little Belt area needed fortification. Denmark was the loser of yet another war and King Frederik III decided to take action, once and for all. Bersodde, as the area was called at that time, was an ideal place to build a fortress town. With coastline on two sides, it was possible to fortify and protect the town with relatively few kilometres of ramparts.

The construction of the ramparts
The King tasked 5000 men with the job of building the ramparts. Before they were completed, a new war with the Swedes got in the way. Once the Swedes returned home, the city and its ramparts were rebuilt. So now all that the fortified but empty town needed was some people to actually live there. Forcible relocation of the entire population of Vejle was considered, but the idea was dropped. Instead, the inhabitants of the nearby villages of Hyby, Hannerup and Ullerup were forced to move inside the ramparts. Most of these people were involved in farming and it would be an understatement to say that having to live in the town within the ramparts and cultivate the fields outside them was not exactly popular. But of course, the King had his way.

A newly built town with no inhabitants
However, he lacked even more inhabitants. In order to attract people from outside, he introduced a number of privileges. These included tax exemptions, free building plots, impunity for criminals, right of asylum, customs freedom, religious freedom (which was not a matter of course in those days) and several other enticements. In terms of religion, this attracted Jews, Huguenot reformists from France, Catholics and other groupings. As an additional benefit, they also brought new crops to Fredericia, as the town came to be called. The new inhabitants, which were indisputably a varied collection of people, brought crops with them such as tobacco, potatoes and wheat.

Unique street and urban planning
Within the ramparts, the street plan was designed as a "military chessboard" with central squares. These squares and perfectly straight streets, had great military strategic advantages. The troops of soldiers could quickly transfer to the ramparts when intruders arrived. Tall buildings and towers, including church towers, were not constructed inside the ramparts. This practical measure ensured that the enemy had no landmarks by which to aim.
The King generally had grandiose plans for Fredericia and at one time it was a candidate for the new Danish capital. After the war against the Swedes in 1657, these plans were abandoned and the plan for Fredericia was amended to make it Denmark's second most important town after Copenhagen. The streets were given appropriately royal names, such as Kongensgade (the King’s Road), Dronningens Gade (Queen Street), Prinsens Gade (Prince Street), Prinsessegade (Princess Street), Købmagergade, and Gothersgade, which are also Copenhagen street names.

What does Fredericia have to do with Venice?
Frederik III’s plans were not just about military strategy. The town was also intended to show the rest of Europe his wealth and power. Just like elsewhere in Europe, kings, emperors and other powerful individuals were all doing their best to outdo one another in pomp and circumstance. Frederik III decided that his trump card would be to use Venice’s canal system as a source of inspiration. Fredericia needed canals and nothing less would do! Plans exist that show the location of these canals in Fredericia’s urban plan. When the King arrived at the town by water, he was meant to be able to sail right up to the large city squares, including the square that is now known as Axeltorv.
Unfortunately, what so often happens also happened here. The ideas were too grand for the amount of money that was available to pay for them. The money simply ran out.

The Battle of Fredericia
Fredericia has been under attack more than once, but the most important piece of war history was made at the Battle of Fredericia on July 6 1849. Denmark was at war with the duchies Schleswig-Holstein who had besieged the area just outside Fredericia’s ramparts. At first glance, things were looking bleak for the Danes, but a group of generals had thought of a bold strategic plan that would change their fortune.

About 22.000 soldiers from the Schleswig-Holstein army had chased after General Rye and his troops who were making their way up through Jutland. By Als in the southern part of Jutland another 22.000 enemy soldiers were facing General de Meza and his troops. What the Schleswig-Holstein army did not know at first, was that General Rye and 4000 of his men had boarded a ship and headed back down the coast of Jutland towards the island of Funen. General de Meza had taken 5000 soldiers and sailed for Funen as well. From the town of Strib on Funen, the two generals and their troops were ferried across the narrow Little Belt directly into the protected town centre behind the ramparts.
Unfortunately, this clever transportation of extra troops did not go unnoticed by the enemy. However, they underestimated the number of Danish troops that were now present in Fredericia. On top of that, the Danish generals had an extra trick up their sleeve: they would stage an attack at night, which was unheard of at the time.

In the middle of the night on July 6 1849, the Danish troops stormed through the gates and attacked. The surprise attack worked and although both sides suffered great losses, it was a historic victory for the Danish army. The Battle of Fredericia became one of the most important Danish victories. Today you can find squares, streets and monuments in Fredericia that are named after the four most significant figures from the battle: General Bülow, General Rye, General de Meza and Colonel Lunding.

 

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Guided tours

With a starting point in Fredericia's historic city center, Middelfart's old district or the beautiful nature, year-round guided tours are offered for groups.

6th of July Celebrations in Fredericia

Experience the annual 6th of July Celebrations in Fredericia from 5th-8th of July and watch history come to life with soldiers from 1849, music and parades in the streets, cannon salutes, shopping, street food market and the 6th of July Jazz & Blues Festival.