The Walls of Stockholm (Swedish: Stockholms stadsmurar) were a medieval fortification and defense system that would protect the city from attack from all sides. While the old city walls’ construction and process are largely unknown, the youngest city walls are now relatively well documented.
In Stockholm, there have been two medieval city walls: an older one, internal, built at the end of the 13th and early 14th century, and more recent ones built during the 15th and 16th centuries. The younger ramparts lost their strategic importance in the 17th century and began to be demolished. A small remnant of Stockholm’s northern city walls that were on Helgeandsholmen can now be seen in the museum of medieval Stockholm.
Stockholm’s oldest city wall was originally a fortification line built during the second half of the 13th century around Stadsholmen. This line of fortifications is thus intimately connected with the origin of Stockholm, founded by Birger Jarl around the year 1250. The old city wall’s exact design and location is disputed and unknown. According to one common belief, they are remnants of the oldest city wall preserved in buildings where the wall once was. At the excavations and building surveys, however, such residues have never been found.
A likely location for the city wall west route is along Prästgatan west side, while the eastern wall followed along Bollhusgränds and Baggensgatans east side. The precise location is difficult to determine specially because the wall moved outward as the city grew. The wall indeed was found in the surviving tax records of the latter half of the 15th century where the concept of ‘prior to the wall’ was used for the taxpayers who lived on the plateau of Stadsholmen.
‘Between the wall’ was a common term for the city area between Prästgatan, Bollhusgränd and Baggensgränd. These streets were Stockholm’s inner ring roads that enveloped the heart-shaped of the Stadsholmens. Much of today’s Prästgatan and Baggensgränd served as look-out points to the end of the north part of Tre Kronor castle. The southern tip of the city wall, including its southern port, was wiped out in the 14th century when the Black Friars’ Monastery was built at this location.
Even the city wall construction differs in concepts. It may have been a granite-stone wall with an upper section of bricks. The west side, probably started as part of Åsbranten, while the eastern wall stood alone, both being approximately 7 meters high. Stockholm’s oldest city walls may also have been a wooden construction, a type of palisade, which could well explain why it has not to date been found.
The city wall had four towers. The west wall stood to the north of St. Nicholas port, Shoemaker Gate and the Water Gate in the far south. The eastern wall had a door, the Merchant’s Gate. It laid as an extension of Merchant Street approximately where the Merchant Square is today, and remained until the 1685 Merchant’s Gate was portrayed by Elias Brenner shortly before demolition on 30 April 1687 ‘for its narrow passage sake’. The vault was in reality much narrower, about 1.6 m.
During the late 14th century people began to build plots outside the city walls. These lands had been gradually extended by paddings, and through rectification and land elevations. When Stockholm’s oldest city walls lost its strategic significance, a new defensive wall was built further west and east.