Sostrup Castle was built by a woman named Sophie Bille. Her husband, Jacob Seefeldt, started construction in 1599. He died the same year after attending his daughter’s wedding celebration, hosted by the King in Copenhagen. His widow dutifully continued the project until 1606.
Sostrup is a water fort, built on a manmade island of boulders and hundreds of pilings, cut from surrounding oak forests. Because of this, we must always be certain to maintain high water levels in the moat, so as to avoid the oak pilings from becoming dry and porous.
An old legend tells us that Sostrup will fall into the moat one Christmas Eve. Previous owner JørgenScheel, nicknamed The Wild Count, took the legend to heart and built a house, Kokkehuset (The Chef’s House), in the neighboring village of Gjerrild, where he would always spend Christmas.
Many noble families have inhabited Sostrup. The powerful noble family Scheel owned Sostrup for 211 years.
The last family member to own the castle was Jørgen Scheel, who – during a period of 15 years had several study trips around Europe – contributed an enormous amount of artifacts, including 11,600 books, furniture and hand-painted wall papers to the castle. However, due to conspicuous consumption, the family’ s ownership ended in 1823 with the largest inventory auction in Danish history and a sale of the estate.
Ernst von Benzon (under whose family’s ownership the castle was named Benzon for over 100 years) was another adventurous spirit. A determined hunter, who loved to sail his schooner to hunting grounds in Africa and South America. Today, many of his trophies still adorn the castle walls, particularly in the dining room.
The nobility’s ownership ended in 1943, when the State took it over. The castle was a refugee camp after World War II for Eastern European refugees, and for a couple of years the old walls were tested by an innovative boarding school with focus on theatre.
In 1960, the place was turned into a Monastery when a group of Cistercian nuns purchased the castle. And in 1992, the formidable Maria Hjerte Monastery and Maria Hjerte Church was built under the leadership of Abbess Theresa Brenninkmeijer.
Stripped of the abbess title, Brenninkmeijer and 22 nuns left the Monastery and Denmark in 2013. The new owners, Kirsten Bundgaard Swift and Anders Bundgaard, took over the historical compound in 2014.
Today Sostrup is owned solely by Kirsten Bundgaard Swift.
Kirsten B. Swift:
“Europe was not on my radar when I visited Sostrup with other family members on a gloomy January day in 2014. Sister Christiane had spread fairy dust – I think – and when she showed us around, I understood this place would be my final project. Perhaps it was destiny. I had this instant vision of a holistic center for reflection and the arts. Healing and creation. People in motion.
I am determined to restore and develop Sostrup to its ultimate potential.”