New exhibition brings 400-year-old naval battle to life

New exhibition at the Viking Ship Museum tells the story of the battle, which Christian IV would rather have forgotten.Painting: Sjöhistoriska Museet in Stockholm
Published 29th Apr 2021

A cold October day in 1644, a dramatic naval battle is fought, which sends three warships to the bottom of the sea. Several hundred years later, maritime archaeologists rediscover the shipwrecks during investigations prior to the construction of the tunnel under Fehmarn Belt.

The Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde shows the special exhibition ‘In Smoke and Flames – the Battle in Fehmarn Belt, 1644’ Until March 1st 2022.

The exhibition presents the results of several years of maritime archaeological investigations, which have revealed the gruesome events that marked the beginning of the end of Denmark’s power in the Baltic.

A crushing defeat

From 1643-45, there is a feud between Sweden and Denmark – and on a cold October day in 1644, a dramatic naval battle takes place, which sends three ships to the bottom of the sea.

The Danish fleet loses in all 15 out of 17 ships and suffers a crushing defeat at the hands of a superior enemy.

The sea can’t remove every trace…

For nearly 400 years, the sea has kept the shipwrecks hidden. Melted bronze guns, shot and gruesome traces of the dead bear witness to the battle’s terrible events.

Follow the story

The special exhibition is a journey-through-time exploring the events before, during and after the battle – year-by-year, month-by-month, day-by-day and hour-by-hour.

From the point where Christian IV increases the Oresund Toll and the Swedes invade Jutland to that fateful day in Fehmarn Belt, the proceeding peace negotiations and, last but not least, the underwater archaeological investigations of the shipwrecks in 2012 and 2020.

A painting brought to life

A visual staging of an impressive painting of the battle, which depicts the ships’ final hours, supports the story. The animated painting reveals the events as they played out, complete with gun smoke and flames.

Together with an impressive ship model, artefacts from the sunken ships and a gun raised from the bottom of Fehmarn belt, the exhibition invites museum guests on a journey to the deep.

Click here to read more about the exhibition

Info about the exhibition:

The special exhibition ‘In Smoke and Flames – the Battle in Fehmarn Belt, 1644’ can be seen at the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde from April 29th 2021 – March 1st 2022.

Artefacts are on loan from:
The National Museum of Denmark, Landesmuseum Schleswig-Holstein, Femern A/S and Køge Maritime Modelbyggerlaug.

The exhibition has been produced in collaboration with the design company, Yoke Aps.

The special exhibition is supported by:
Dronning Margrethes og Prins Henriks Fond, Beckett-Fonden, Brebølfonden, A/S D/S Orients Fond and Furi Appel og Gunnar Niskers Fond til Almennyttige Formål.

Parallel to the exhibition, runs a dissemination programme with an online artefact catalogue, lectures, essays and guided tours.


Created by Rikke Tørnsø Johansen