Tag Archives: Sonderborg castle

The mysterious moving coffins

If you understand Danish you should watch the YouTube clip below where museum director Inge Adriansen tells the story and read more here. If not read on for the English version.

When the first wife of Duke John II (Hertug Hans den Yngre) died in 1586 he created a tomb by the chapel in Sønderborg Castle. The tomb was protected by a beautifully decorated portal that depicts the 14 children he had with his first wife – he had 23 children in all. Behind the door stands the coffins of 46 descendants of the dukes of Sonderborg, Augustenborg and Glücksborg, the last is the line of the current Danish Royal family. The last to go in was duchess Louise Augusta of Augustenborg in 1843.

Photo: Museum Sønderjylland – Sønderborg Slot

The tomb is not open to the public so the video above gives you a rare peak inside. The bodies in the coffins are embalmed and last time they had the tomb of John II open was in 1969 where the coffins were restored. “They are in more or less good condition. As you would after lying around in dry air for 400 years” says Inge Adriansen.

For many years they thought John II was haunting the castle. The coffins did not stay put – they moved around! Once a year the tomb is opened up to get a spring clean and whenever that happened they could see in the dust that the coffins had moved from where they were the year before. Sometimes it had moved 10 cm, sometimes more. The cleaning people were afraid of working in the tomb alone so Inge Adriansen always had to go with them. When they asked her why the coffins had moved she said it was because the dead had hurried to jump back in the coffin when the sun rose. The cleaning personnel didn’t see the joke in that story. Since the castle did not have an explanation they chose to keep quiet about the moving coffins.

They finally figured out what was causing the moving coffins the year they had not moved. Suddenly one year in the 90s the coffins stood exactly were they had stood one year earlier. As Inga Adriansen cycled home from work that day she saw a Booze Ferry (Spritbåd) turn in the harbour and it dawned on her. In the 70s and 80s loads of ferries were stopping in Sønderborg and they docked by the pier right next to the castle. Up to 15 boats would dock every day and they bumped into the pier as they moored so the vibrations carried on into the tomb of the castle causing the coffins to move up to more than 10 cm in a year.

So there you have it. No ghosts were moving the coffins around. But I wonder what other stories the good people of the castle haven’t told us…

Sonderborg accommodation

Review: Bed and Breakfast in Sonderborg

As we could only move into our apartment on the 1st of December we needed temporary accommodation in Sonderborg for around 2 weeks. After looking at the options our choice fell on Bed and Breakfast Sonderborg mainly for its location and facilities.

Sonderborg accommodation

The B&B is the red building in the top centre


The B&B is located on a road overlooking Als Sund. It is easily reached from the town (around 10 minute walk from the bus station, and just across the water from the train station i.e. around 10 minute walk).

Our room was then on the top floor of the building, making it quite a bit of a climb. If this is a problem for you do make note, though otherwise it should be OK if you are in good health. Nevertheless, there are also rooms in the ground floor if needs be.


The first thing of note on entering the apartment, particularly our room, is the amazing views onto Als Sund, taking in Sonderborg Castle, King Christian X’s bridge, Dybbole Molle and Alsion. The big windows along one wall framed this view perfectly.

View from our room at the B&B

The set-up inside is just as pretty, particularly our room: spacious and clean, with lovely wooden beam features. The only downside of the room is that it doesn’t have a wardrobe, though some shelves and drawers are available. However, there are some coat hooks both inside the room as well as outside, which helped.


Having a small kitchen area where we could cook our own food was a deciding factor in picking our place. Particularly when living here for more than a few days – eating out in Denmark is not cheap!


Another thing we look for is, of course, wireless internet. The wifi is decent most of the time, though it does seem a bit busy when more people are using it. We did, however, have some problems on a number of days when the router seemed to completely give up. On the other days, however, we did make skype calls of good quality, so it is more than sufficient for us.


I would have no problem staying here myself again or recommending it to family or friends. However I would suggest asking for the top floor room with the view if possible – the view is definitely worth the climb, and you know you need the exercise anyways!


Sonderborg Castle #2/99

This review is based on our visit to Sonderborg Castle when we were in the area for my interview in early September. 

Fortifications in the Sonderborg Castle area have been around since the 12th century. The site, a piece of land jutting out from the island of Als into Als Fjord was excellently located to protect this area of Denmark from attacks from the south. This also puts the castle in a very picturesque location.

May 11/10 Sunset on the slot

Over time, what started out as a tower within a much larger system of fortifications developed through numerous transformations into the castle we see today. Nowadays, the castle houses the Southern Jutland Museum.

The museum covers the history of the castle on the ground floor, and the history of Southern Denmark from the middle ages to today on the upper floors. There are also exhibits of historical collections from the local area, such as of textiles and ceramics.

The museum packs quite a lot into the space without making the place feel crowded. Unfortunately, the information panels are only sporadically in English. This made it quite difficult to follow the story of any one section. I was, however, told that they are working on English translations at the moment, which is positive.

I have always loved museums, and my current studies and experiences have put me in close contact with quite a lot. So I must admit that I really appreciate having a national museum in Sonderborg. Maybe I should get more involved with it? Would love to find a way!

Photo by Judith Doyle