Thursday, August 01, 2013

Præstø - a cosy Provincial Town at the Coast of Zealand.

Præstø, the city square, photo: stig bachmann nielsen,

Præstø is a small cosy town with a pretty situation along the southeastern coast of Zealand, the largest island in the Danish archipelago. The town was founded upon an island and the connection to land was a bridge from the west. The bridge existed up till 1804 where it was replaced by a dam. The old part of town is still demarcated to the south by a green wedge around the river Tubæk, and the western terrain rises almost like a bank around town.

The first town probably emerged in the early Middle Ages,  in the 1200s, as a harbour from where corn was disembarked to the Hanseatic merchants. The inhabitants had also a good income from fishing - they took part in the yearly herring fishing and in the herring market at Skanør (in Skåne). The town got its municipal rights in 1403 from the newly appointed king Erik of Pommern - and in 1470 an Antonite-kloster was founded in connection to the church. The area of the Antonite kloster was called "The Priests' Island",  from where the name Præstø origins. In the church is still seen the unique Antonite cross, called the Tau-cross. Today are seen two visible Antonite crosses in the church, one in the loft at the organ and another in the back of the northeren nave.

The Tau cross depicts a crutch and was a symbol that the monks of the Antonite-order took care of sick and needy people. The kloster was demolished after the reformation. In 1672 a manor, Nysø, was built northwest of town, which meant that the developement of the town stopped to the north.

Præstø has no old medieval buildings. There were several city fires from 1641 till 1757 - and furthermore the town was plundered by the Swedes in 1657-1660. The famous Gønges fought the Swedes in the region in this period. Their leader was Svend Poulsen, called Svend Gønge. He and his men were called the Snaphaner. In a park in Præstø, Frederiksminde, stands a statue of a Snaphane.

In 1872 a flood razed the town, but the old city has however kept some harmonic sceneries with modest, but wellkept house-rows, especially around the church and the city square. The developement of Præstø was modest and stagnant for long periods, but it had a Renaissance in the 1800s because of the export of corn to England. The harbour was modernized in 1827, and the railway came to Præstø from Næstved in 1900. It was closed down in 1961.

Præstø is first of all today a pretty trading town with cosy cafés and a lively harbour environment. Many places conform the history of the old town, a town with small cobblestones in the streets and the coherent pastel-painted houses. Today's town is cosy with crooked streets and the almost unspoiled urban environment, the quintessence of the idyl in a Danish provincial town. Præstø been used as a setting in several Danish films.
Jungshoved 2003/gb
The landscape around Præstø fjord is very worth seeing. It varies between forest and meadows. At a place Broskov are rests of an ancient road, which earliest section is from Iron Age. Upon the peninsula Jungshoved east of the city is the castle bank of Jungshoved castle, known from the novel "Gøngehøvdingen" by the Danish author, Carit Etlar. By the castle bank lies Jungshoved church very beautifully situated, close to the waters of the fjord.

* The Antonite kloster in Præstø was a branch of the mother kloster Morkær in North Germany. The monks took care of people who were afflicted by Sct Antonius-fire, a sort of gangrene, which was one of the worst scourges in the Middle Ages. The disease was caused by bread-corn, which was poisoned by a  fungus (Claviceps purpurea) The Antonite klosters were very important for sick people, like the hospitals of Sct Jørgen )Sct George) were for the leprous.

Præstø has a museum for the fire protection history: Dansk Brandværnhistorisk Museum, with a collection of horse-drawn fire pumps, the earliest from 1761 - and with a historic collection from the fire teams and from local history. A museum, called "Den lille By" (The small Town), has a collection of over 200 dolls from 1790-1930. 
The pottery Rødeled west of the old city section was established in 1898 and is the oldest pottery in Denmark. It is today both a museum, a workshop and a boutique.
Nysø (wikipedia)
The manor Nysø is an architectional pearl from the 1870s. It was Denmarks' first manor in Baroque style, and it was a homestead of both H.C. Andersen and Bertel Thorvaldsen, who lived here for the last six years of his life. The manor was at that time owned by baron Stampe and his wife, who built an atelier for Thorvaldsen. The Thorvaldsen collection can still be seen at the Manor Museum. The park is open for the public all year.

Source: Danmarks Købstæder, Søren Olsen, Politikens forlag 2000.

photo 2013 : grethe bachmann


stardust said...

This is a charming little town indeed, Grethe. I like the soft-colored walls and cobblestone in the streets. In many urban areas, development has spoiled the old singular flavor of the town, but how nice to know that this town is unspoiled. By the way, please excuse me of my ignorance but does Zealand have anything to do with New Zealand?


Thyra said...

Hej Yoko, no , New Zealand is named after a Netherland province Zeeland.
The Danish name for this Danish Zealand is Sjælland!

Thank you for your nice comment.
I was just out yesterday to see where we've got cobblestones and chaussé-stones in my town Århus - and it was such a surprise. There are so many streets downtown like this, many more than I had noticed!

It's fun to be tourist in your own town!!
Grethe ´)