Gothenburg’s Medieval Remains: Ramparts, Bastions, Moat, Caponier


Gothenburg aka Göteborg retains its historical and architectural past. By Esperantoplatsen one can see the medieval wall – the erstwhile fortification of the city. Gothenburg in the 17th and 18th centuries was a heavily fortified city in Europe. Gothenburg was a fortified city during 1621-1807, and from 1684 to 1700 the fortifications were modernized under E. Dahlberf’s/Erik Dahlbergh’s leadership. The city was surrounded by a moat, 7 metre-high walled bastions, ramparts, Fort Lejonet (Skansen Lejonet) and Fort Kronan (Skansen Kronan). Of the bastions, only Carlous Rex has been preserved, and restored in the 1920s, and serves today as the city’s past, history, architecture and legacy.


Bastion Carlous Gustavus Rex was built in the 18th century. It is named after Karl X Gustav: he was the King of Sweden during 1654-1660.

Carlous Gustavus Rex formed Otterhälleverken’s central bastion. From this bastion one can see Skansen Kronan (Fort Crown) in a straight line along Kaponjärgatan. The caponier was built between the bastion and Skansen Kronan, and was an enwalled passage between the city’s fortifications and Skansen Kronan in order to allow for protected movement between them. The idea for the caponier was an idea in Quartermaster General Olf Örnehufvud’s proposal of drawings from 1639.

Quartermaster General is the head of an army department in-charge of the quartering and equipment of troops. Olof Hansson Örnehufvud rose to nobility from Olof Hansson Svart (1600-1644). He was a Swedish general quartermaster, cartographer, draftsman and copper engraver (coppersmith).

Caponier is a defensive structure in a fortification, a covered passage across a ditch round a fort, a way to access to the outworks and protecting troops from direct attack of fire and harm from enemy. Caponiers are either roofed or unroofed.  Capoiner is French in origin: caponniere meaning chicken coop.

Erik Dahlberg’s new proposals for the entire fortified town of Gothenburg from 1865 included caponier – this proppsal was implemented: subsequently built. According to the City of Gothenburg (Göteborgs Stad), it was not constructed until 1719-1720 and was completed towards the end of the 1740s in connection with the outer fortifications after ascertaining their final form. After a short illness, Karl X Gustav died in Torstenson Palance in Gothenburg, subsequently called Kungshuset (The King’s House). The building is nowadays known as Residenset (the official home of the County Governor) and is situated along the Great Harbour Canal (Stora Hamnkanalen).

Erik Dahlberg (Dahlbergh: 1625 –1703) was a Swedish military engineer, Governor-General and Field Marshal. He too rose to nobility though born into a peasant stock through his competence as a draftsman and architect. Suecia Antiqua et Hodierna is his remarkable legacy: a work of topographical research.

Bastions on Lilla Otterhällan served as an outpost to the southwest during the 1600s to the 18th centuries. The fortress girdle that went around Gothenburg was shaped enlightened Dutch ideals with its arch form, moat (water graves), earthen walls and bastions.

Leif Södergren mentioned in THE GARDEN SOCIETY OF GOTHENBURG: “Gothenburg was, in the 1600’s, a walled city surrounded by a moat, with twelve thousand inhabitants living inside the fortifications. As the city walls were eventually torn down and the city opened up, there was a demand for recreational green areas. In that process, the Garden Society of Gothenburg was created in 1842. It was given land by the city, just across the canal (moat).”


Carlous Undecimus Rex is the most impressive bastion of the Otterhälleverkens of bastions with a magnificent view of the Göta River harbour inlet. To the west is the Älvsborg Bridge, where the old Gamle Älvsborg castle was formerly situated. Behind the Eriksberg crane at Hisingen lay the first city formation called Gothenburg but burned down by the Danes in 1611 during the Kalmar War.

Carlous Undecimus Rex is the westernmost of the three bastions in the Otterhälleverken and it is commonly known as Carlous Rex. It is named after Karl XI who was King when the fortress was first presented as a proposal in 1685. The bastion was originally erected in 1688 but rebuilt in connection with the creation of the prison and warehouse in the 1770s. The Bastion has a total of three rooms, and out of three, two remain to this day.


Karlsporten was one of Gothenburgs’s five gates during the medieval times. The other four were Drottningsporten, Kungsporten, Stora Bommen, and Lilla Bommen. Karlsporten with its connected walls or ramparts was constructed during the year 1704-1707, and the whole fortification was modernised during period 1684-1719 based on drawings by Erik Dahlberg.

Karlsporten was demolished in 1820.

The gunpowder storehouse in the Carlous Undecimus Rex Bastion was constructed in 1688 as part of Otterhälleverken on Lilla Otterhällan. During second half of the 1700s, a number of gunpowder storehouses were built within the fortifications with the aim of storing and defending the flammable gunpowder. The storehouse comprised very heavy brick buildings. One such gunpowder storehouse was built in the western flank by Carlous Undecimus Rex. The gunpowder storehouse was constructed during the years 1773-1776. The entrance still remains in its original place on the western side of Karlsporten. Together with the gate, remains can be seen of the city wall which led to Karlsporten. The gunpowder storehouse was never used to store gunpowder but it served as a place of imprisonment for Russian prisoners of war.