- Tessin Palace was built between 1694 and 1700
- It was designed and owned by Nicodemus Tessin the Younger
- Its facade is inspired by Roman Renaissance
- Today, it is the official residence of the County Governor
Walking through the historical streets of Stockholm, you can admire architectural masterpieces created by the country’s best architects of corresponding eras. There have been few people, however, who influenced the city landscape as much as Nicodemus Tessin the Younger. Although Tessin created several of the most remarkable and famous buildings in the Swedish capital, there is only one that gives us a true peek into the brilliant artist’s mind.
The uniqueness of the Tessin Palace lies in the fact that, as the name suggests, Nicodemus Tessin was not only its architect but also the owner. Therefore, the palace is the only building he designed where the architect was not limited by a customer’s requirements, budget, or opinions. Tessin took full advantage of the situation and the result was a truly stunning structure with many unique and experimental features.
Thanks, in part, to his father, Nicodemus Tessin the Older, known as the architect of the Wrangel Palace and for his work on the Drottningholm Palace, Tessin had a path to an extraordinary career paved from an early age. After several international study trips, in 1681, at the age of 27, Tessin the Younger replaced his father as the court architect and his professional life was booming. He strengthened his already prominent position in the society through the marriage with Hedvig Eleonora Stenbock, the Queen’s maid and a member of one of the oldest and most renown noble families in Sweden.
Despite the marriage, Tessin still belonged only to the low nobility, which is why he planned to use his new residence as a proof of his education, taste, and economical capabilities. He purchased the land on Slottsbacken right next to the Royal Palace in 1692 and started designing what was meant to become his magnificent residence.
In the 1690s, Tessin was clearly at the peak of his career as in this decade, he was overlooking the reconstruction of The Royal Palace and Drottningholm Palace, was in charge of royal celebrations, and several prominent buildings drawn by him including two churches in Karlskrona were under reconstruction.
Interestingly, the land on which the palace stands is not larger than that of a standard detached house in Stockholm. That is yet another reason why Tessin Palace is so extraordinary. Through ingenious and brave solutions, the architect managed to use the limited space well and make the property look more spacious than it actually is.
The construction works started in 1694 and although the works continued until 1700, in summer 1697, Tessin was ready to move in. The influence of continental trips on the architect’s work is clear from the outside as well as on the inside. It is interesting, though, that while the exterior features many elements typical of the Italian architecture created by men such as Michelangelo and Bernini, the interior is designed in French style instead.
Tessin Palace consists of three floors and the property features a beautiful Italian garden hidden from the public behind the main building. While the rustic bottom floor was designed primarily for servants, the remaining two were used by the Tessin family and their visitors. The top floor is the most exclusive, occupied by the ‘state apartment’ made up of several rooms depicting a different theme each.
Some of the themes that can be found in the residence are Italian natural landscape and arts including architecture, sculpting, and painting to make it obvious that the original owner was a renowned architect.
The wings, which are of different size and shape each to make up for the irregularities of the land, used to house a library and a gallery. Originally, there had stood a forecourt bordered by a wall and iron gates oriented toward Slottsbacken but this was later removed.
I have mentioned that it was Tessin’s intention to show the world who he was and that he was worthy of a higher social status with his new residence. In the years following the completion of his palace, he became first Baron, then Count, and also Marshal of the Court and a member of the Privy Council. Judging by this list, it seems like his plan worked.
When Tessin the Younger passed away, in 1728, his son, Carl Gustaf Tessin, and his wife, Ulla Sparre, moved into the palace. Carl Gustaf was an influential state official who occupied many important seats including the seat of the Minister of Culture and the seat of the Prime Minister. Whereas, it is true that he inherited passion for art from his predecessors, it is said that he did not possess skills to make a living in the art world.
He had proved his passion by creating a high-end collection of art and crafts that later formed the base of the National Museum. However, his hobby turned out to be more financially demanding than Carl Gustaf could afford. That, in combination with his conflicts with the Royal Family, meant that he was forced to sell his father’s residence in the mid-1750s.
For a short while, the palace had been owned by businessman and politician Gustaf Kierman who later sold it to the Crown. Since Prince Carl (later Carl XIII, also known as Charles XIII) never moved into the residence, it was used by the Royal Court instead. According to historical sources, there were 37 people excluding children living in the palace in 1768.
Once again after a few years, the palace changed owner. This time, it was acquired by the City of Stockholm and used as the official residence of the governor-general. No major changes were done to the building in the reconstruction carried out in preparation for the building’s new role.
The prominent palace has remained an official residence of government officers to this day. Since the 1960s, it is owned by the state, listed as a historic site, and serves as the residence of the county governor. Around the same time, the beautiful garden was renovated after a long decay and is now in such a good condition it is a great shame it is not visible for the public.
This story is meant to give you and interesting insight into the life of one of the most remarkable architects Sweden has ever seen and what influenced his choices when building his prominent residence. If you feel like I managed to achieve my goal, consider sharing the story with your dear ones who you think will find it exciting, too.
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Fredlund, Jane, 1995. Gyllene salar bakom diskret fasad.
County Administrative Board, 2012. Tessin Palace. Residence of the County Governor.