Sweden's Vasa: 50 years above the waves
- On 22/04/2011
- In Museum News
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From The local
It's been 50 years since the centuries-old Vasa warship was hoisted up from the depths of Stockholm harbour, but as contributor Elizabeth Dacey-Fondelius discovers, preserving this national treasure has been the Vasa's greatest battle.
The 17th century Vasa warship, Sweden’s most recognizable maritime artifact and archeological asset, celebrates the 50th anniversary of her liberation from the gloom and anonymity of the shallows of Stockholm’s inner harbor.
On April 24th, 1961 thousands of titillated spectators watched as the waterlogged ship shook loose the final grip of relentless sludge, rose from her watery grave and broke the water’s surface for the first time in three centuries.
The Vasa had endured an unceremonious 333-year interlude beneath the waves, only to be raised rather ceremoniously and given a second chance at achieving its former glory.
Despite her blemished beginnings, the Vasa is now a celebrity in her own right having been viewed by an estimated 30 million people in the past 50 years.
Before a visit, people may think the Vasa Museum is just another museum on a Stockholm tour itinerary.
After the visit they may very well have fallen in love.
"We at the Vasa Museum often talk about the ‘Wow Effect’," says Vasa Museum spokesperson Martina Siegrist Larsson.
"It is the moment a visitor first sees the Vasa coming into the museum. Just beyond the doors of the entrance they stop as if frozen and then gasp, ‘Wow’."
The Vasa was supposed to represent the power and might of Lion of the North, King Gustav II Adolf, one of Sweden's most celebrate monarchs at a time when the country was near the apex of its power in Europe.
Her gleaning double-gun decks, ornately adorned with sculpture and allegory were meant to put fear into the foe who might oppose her.
Glorious flags and pennants flew as the Vasa left the docks at Skeppsholmen, where Blasieholmen is today, for her maiden voyage on August 10th, 1628.