A cliff of limestoneA long time ago, there were no harbor piers or mini golf courses or bike paths. Twenty thousand years ago, all of Scandinavia was covered by ice and everything was tranquil. Denmark and the province of Skåne were united by a land bridge. For thousands of years the days passed by this way. Sometimes a reindeer or a hare passed by on its walk north. But the climate was slowly getting milder, and when the sea level in the Baltic sea rose, the water poured in and land became seabed. Ven was the only thing left standing in what was to become Öresund.
Then followed many hundreds of yearsIt’s inevitable to try to imagine how the life on Ven looked during the Bronze and Iron Age. It’s likely that the whole island has been woodland. The great herring era of the twelfth century can’t have passed the islanders without notice. However, Ven seems to have evaded the naval battles and wars in Middle Ages that were fought with Ven in the line of fire. It’s said that the Battle of Svolder in year 1000 is one of them. Ven seem to have had a calm and insignificant existence that didn’t leave many traces. This until the day when Tycho Brahe arrived at the island.
Tycho Brahe’s arrival to the island
When the Scanian-Danish astronomer and nobleman Tycho Brahe came to Ven, nothing became the same for the people here. The peasants had to do all his labor and couldn’t leave the island without permission. Tycho Brahe received Ven as a gift from the Danish king Fredrik II and he built his castle Uraniborg right in the middle of the island. In 1580 the castle was completed – housing and astronomical observatory in one.
On the balconies were instruments directed against the moon, planets and stars. Near the castle, Tycho later built a special observatory, Stjärneborg. It was immersed in the ground and reasonably protected from the wind. Tycho placed some of his best sight instruments there.
Yes, sight instruments! At this time there were no binoculars or telescopes. The positions of the celestial bodies were analyzed by the naked eye using instruments equipped with graduation discs. Tycho made use of particularly precise instruments and scales to get good readings. He built the best, most sophisticated scientific instruments available until the invention of the earliest known telescope in 1608.
The activities at Ven can be compared to a private university. A skilled research leader, many students, big resources and the best available technology. It can hardly sound more modern than that, but this was the 1500’s on Ven!
The universe in transformation
In his youth, before arriving at Ven, Tycho Brahe finds that a strong light in the sky is a new star and not just a smolder in the Earth’s atmosphere. He measures and counts and draws a conclusion about the new star that goes against what had been believed for thousands of years – that the celestial spheres are eternal and unchangeable. Later he also observes a bright comet, and on the basis of his measurements, Brahe can conclude that the comet moves far beyond the path of the moon. It was not heard of before. Comets were considered to belong to the sea of air surrounding the Earth.
Tycho eventually leaves his island and his country after deteriorating relations with the new king Kristian IV. As an old-aged gentleman in company with his wife Kirsten and the six children he takes their belongings and research out to Europe. His belongings include instruments from Ven, observation journals, manuscripts, printing presses, books and alchemical equipment. The course is set at Prague, where Emperor Rudolf II promises him a warm welcome.
After Tycho Brahe’s passing 1601 in Prague, Johannes Kepler takes care of the observations from Ven. Thanks to Tycho’s careful measurements, the correct movements of the planets are to be discovered. The sun is placed in the center, and the earth is moving around the sun. The transformation of man’s view of the world proceeds with relentless power.
The Tycho Brahe Museum
The Tycho Brahe Museum in the middle of the island tells the whole story about Tycho Brahe. A tangible memory of the activities in the 16th century is Stjärneborg. Of the half-underground crypts there are some that are well-preserved. The well to the castle is also preserved. The symmetrical Renaissance garden around the castle is partially rebuilt and invites you to stroll around in apple grooves and flower beads. The location of Tycho Brahes paper mill, where he made paper for his books, is close to the place called Möllebäcken, which served as Ven’s harbor during Tycho’s time. But anyone who wants to visit the castle is left to use his imagination – the building was taken down stone for stone already in the early 1600s.
You can read more about the Tycho Brahe Museum on its website.