Quick Facts

  • Stenbock Palace was built in the 1640s by Fredrik Stenbock
  • Its modern-day appearance comes mostly from the 17th-century reconstruction by Nicodemus Tessin the Older
  • It has been the home of several government institutions
  • Today, it houses the Svea Court of Appeal (Svea Hovrätt)

Places around us might be fascinating for many different reasons. Sometimes, we are in awe because of how long ago a place was built. On other occasions, it is the ingenuity it took to design and create a particular place. It might also be that we simply cannot take our eyes off a building or a garden standing in front of us because of its sheer beauty. What if I told you there was a place that combines several of these attributes and you are likely to miss it if you do not look hard enough?

Stenbock Palace in Stockholm

Without further due, let’s meet the Stenbock Palace (Stenbockska palatset) standing on Riddarholmen across the square from the monumental Riddarholm Church (Riddarholmskyrkan).

About five-hundred years ago, what you would find on the parcel was a simple stone house we do not know very much about. What we do know, though, is that the property was owned by the famous Sture dynasty at the time. It was only during the decades preceding the 1640s that the Stenbock family inherited the land together with the modest residence.

Things started shifting swiftly in the northern part of the Riddarholmen Island when President of the Svea Court of Appeal (Svea Hovrätt) Fredrik Stenbock decided to build his residence on the family-owned property. The resulting palace, built in the 1640s, did not only become the residence of Fredrik Stenbock and his wife Katarina de la Gardie, it also forms the skeleton of the modern-day palace standing in the location today.

Stenbock Palace from Birger Jarls Square in Stockholm

When the days of the original palace owners were numbered, their son Johan Gabriel Stenbock inherited the noble property. A few years later, he invited the renowned architect Nicodemus Tessin the Older to modernise the palace.

It was essentially during this reconstruction that the modern-day Stenbock Palace was born and hence, Tessin the Older played a major role in its story. At this time, the main building was enlengthened by the size of four window rows, the roof and the interior were significantly modified, and the palace obtained its recognisable baroque style which makes it stand out in the modern age.

As you could expect, many of the leading artists and craftsmen of the time were involved in the works including stonemasons, carpenters, masons, and others. The masons, in particular, seem to have done an outstanding work as the masonry together with the aforementioned skeleton are recognised as some of the historically most valuable attributes of Stenbock Palace.

Stenbock Palace in Stockholm

After Johan Gabriel’s niece Christina got the family residence in her hands early in the 18th century, it was her son, also Johan Gabriel, who had a major impact particularly on the inner parts of the palace. As fate would have it, Johan Gabriel Sack was good friends with another famous architect, Carl Hårleman.

Hårleman took on the renovation proposed by Sack and made significant changes to the interior of the palace in the decade between 1730 and 1740. An important change which was made during this reconstruction, too, was the replacement of the original leaded windows for the modern glass windows fitted into wooden frames.

In the middle of the century, Stenbock Palace got yet another owner. This time, it was an interesting historical figure Eric Brahe. The politician acquired the house to complement the collection of properties he owned at Skokloster and Rydboholm as he needed a representative residence in Stockholm, too.

Stenbock Palace in Stockholm

However, only a few years had passed before Brahe’s involvement in the planning of a state coup with the intention of strengthening the power of King Adolf Fredrik was discovered. He was soon convicted of high treason and beheaded only a stone’s throw from his own residence on Riddarholmen.

Matters were about to change at Stenbock Palace once again but not before a large portion of the furniture was moved to the marvellous Skokloster Castle north of Stockholm. For a fairly short period, the palace used to be rented out to foreign ambassadors and other distinguished individuals.

Later in the 1700s, it was the state who took over the palace. A big reconstruction led by Jean Eric Rehn had been carried out before the National Board of Trade (Kommerskollegium) moved into the premises. Over the course of the following years, a number of government institutions resided in the palace and its wings.

Birger Jarl's Square in Stockholm

I have not mentioned the wings earlier as today there are none and the available information about those that used to stand on the parcel is scarce. However, we know that the first pair of them was demolished around the time when the railway came to Stockholm and the other two had to give way to the National Archives standing in the neighbourhood of Stenbock Palace.

The Archives also resided in the palace itself between 1865 and the completion of the designated building in 1890. These were somewhat turbulent times for the property as the interior needed to be adjusted for the needs of its current occupant.

Stenbock Palace did not avoid further modernisation even in the 20th century. Electricity and central heating were both installed around 1920 and that was only the beginning. Another fundamental reconstruction was about to be carried out with the goal to create a pleasant work environment for the employees of the Swedish Supreme Administrative Court (Regeringsrätten).

Back facade of the Old National Archives in Stockholm

At this time, the palace was given its original pink façade and the interior created by Carl Hårleman and Eric Jean Rehn, as well as the stucco roof, was restored completely. The palace was put back in use in 1972 after the inauguration that took place in presence of King Gustav VI Adolf himself.

Today, you can once again admire Stenbock Palace at its best after a very recent renovation. And I can tell you, considering that the oldest parts of the house are from the 1600s, it looks just amazing. Hopefully, when you get to visit this historic site, you will be able to relate to the likes of Johan Gabriel Stenbock and Erik Brahe and imagine why they would want to live at this very place.

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Sources:
SFV. Stenbockska palatset. [sfv.se].
Ringdén, Hans-Fredrik, 1972. Stenbockska palatset på Riddarholmen säte för regeringsrätten. [Svensk Juristtidning].
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