The Story of the Ill Fated Swedish Warship – Vasa

“Vasa (or Wasa)is a retired Swedish warship built between 1626 and 1628. The ship foundered after sailing about 1,300 m (1,400 yd) into its maiden voyage on 10 August 1628. It fell into obscurity after most of her valuable bronze cannons were salvaged in the 17th century until she was located again in the late 1950s in a busy shipping lane just outside the Stockholm harbor. Salvaged with a largely intact hull in 1961, it was housed in a temporary museum called Wasavarvet (‘The Wasa Shipyard’) until 1988 and then moved permanently to the Vasa Museum in the Royal National City Park in Stockholm. The ship is one of Sweden’s most popular tourist attractions and has been seen by over 35 million visitors since 1961. Since her recovery, Vasa has become a widely recognised symbol of the Swedish ‘great power period’ and is today a de facto standard in the media and among Swedes for evaluating the historical importance of shipwrecks.” – Wikipedia

” On the orders of the King of Sweden Gustavus Adolphus as part of the military expansion he initiated in a war with Poland-Lithuania (1621–1629). It was constructed at the navy yard in Stockholm under a contract with private entrepreneurs in 1626–1627 and armed primarily with bronze cannons cast in Stockholm specifically for the ship. Richly decorated as a symbol of the king’s ambitions for Sweden and himself, upon completion she was one of the most powerfully armed vessels in the world. However, Vasa was dangerously unstable and top-heavy with too much weight in the upper structure of the hull. Despite this lack of stability she was ordered to sea and foundered only a few minutes after encountering a wind stronger than a breeze”. – Wikipedia

The Figurehead

The figurehead is lion carved in lime by sculptor Marten Redtmer. The lion holds the heraldic arms of the Vasa dynasty, a corn sheaf (“vase”) after which the ship was named.

Shrouds

From the sides and aft, the masts are supported by shrouds (not seen here). Between the shrouds are steps, ratlines. The shrouds are tightened by lanyards reeved through deadeyes.

The foremast

Comprised three parts: lower mast, topmast and topgallant mast. The lower mast, a 25 meter pine log is preserved and standing.

Roman Emperors

The sculptures along the side of the ship are Roman emperors. They stand in chronological order from forward to aft from – Tiberius to Septimius Severus.

The Grating

The wooden grid work along the deck provided air and light to the interior of the ship. It was also an outlet for the smoke from the galley deep down in the hold.

The Transom/Stern

On the upper part of the Transom, two griffins are putting the crown on the King’s head. The crown emphasizes the Royal status of the dynasty.

On the bottom there are two lions. The lions have featured in the national coat of arms of Sweden since the 13th century.

The Cherub

The cherubs’ olive branches symbolize peace. Heavy bunches of fruits point to wealth and prosperity.

Gun Ports

Warrior in Roman Armour

The figure would have been holding a sword in his right hand. The lion and the dog at his feet symbolize the clemency of the strong toward the weak.

Life boat

Sculptures

Sculptures made up a considerable part of the effort and cost of building the ship. The symbolism used in decorating the ship was mostly based on the Renaissance idealization of Roman and Greek antiquity, which had been imported from Italy through German and Dutch artists. Imagery borrowed from Mediterranean antiquity dominates the motifs, but also include figures from the Old Testament and even a few from ancient Egypt. Many of the figures are in Dutch grotesque style, depicting fantastic and frightening creatures, including mermaids, wild men, sea monsters and tritons. The decoration inside the ship is much sparser and is largely confined to the steerage and the great cabin, at the after end of the upper gundeck.

A visit to the Vasa Museum is a “must do” if you’re visiting Stockholm especially for maritime enthusiasts.

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