Medieval churches in Denmark

Church of the Holy Ghost

The Church of the Holy Ghost (Helligåndskirken) is one of the Copenhagen"s oldest churches. The first abbey in Copenhagen was a Franciscan monastery founded in 1238, just 12 years after the death of Francis of Assisi. Prior to that, Archbishop Eskil had founded two Cistercian monasteries, Esrom Abbey and Herrevad Abbey. Typically for the order, they had been founded at more remote locations in Northern Zealand ...
Founded: 1400-1450 | Location: Copenhagen, Denmark

Roskilde Cathedral

Roskilde Cathedral is the earliest major ecclesiastical building in brick in northern Europe and had a profound influence on the spread of brick for this purpose over the whole region. Both in its form and in its setting it is an outstanding example of a north European cathedral complex, especially noteworthy for the successive architectural styles used in the ancillary chapels and porches added during the centuries durin ...
Founded: c. 1170 | Location: Roskilde, Denmark

Budolfi Cathedral

In the crypt of Budolfi Cathedral visitors can see the remains of the large stones used for the original church that was built at the direction of Bishop Eskil of Viborg no later than 1132. The first church was much smaller than the current church since it was a parish church. It consisted of a short nave and choir built in Romanesque style. That means it had half-round arches supporting a flat timber ceiling. The existi ...
Founded: c. 1380-1400 | Location: Aalborg, Denmark

St. Lawrence's Church Ruins

St. Lawrence"s Church was built around 1125 AD of travertine. During the reformation in 1536 the church was demolished. Only the tower was left, and is today the tower of the city hall. The ruins are preserved 2 metres under the square Stændertorvet. They reveal the beautiful restored red and black clay tile floor and mediaeval fixtures of the church as well as archaelogical finds from the excavations.The ruins ...
Founded: c. 1125 | Location: Roskilde, Denmark

Aarhus Cathedral

The building of Århus Cathedral was started in the last decades of the 12th Century by Peter Vognsen, a member of famous aristocratic family Hviderne. He was ordained as a Bishop in 1191. The Cathedral - a magnificent Romanesque basilica - was a gigantic project and not finished until about 1350. Red bricks were used, a kind of material not otherwise used in Denmark before approx. 1160. The outer walls of this Cathedral ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Aarhus, Denmark

Odense Cathedral

The present Odense Cathedral dates primarily from the 13th century, but it was built on the foundations of an earlier travertine church that was built in 1095. During the civil war between Eric IV and his brother, Abel, Odense and the cathedral were burned down in 1247. The present church was constructed in several phases to replace the aging and inadequate stone church in about 1300 by Bishop Gisico (1287–1300). The ne ...
Founded: c. 1300 | Location: Odense, Denmark

Ribe Cathedral

Ribe Cathedral is the oldest cathedral in Denmark. Vor Frue Kirke (The Church of Our Lady), as the cathedral is actually called, became the only five-aisled cathedral in Denmark following numerous alterations and additions. The present-day building is characterised by a wealth of different styles and interesting details. The first church in Ribe was built in 860 by the missionary monk Ansgar who went on to become Archbis ...
Founded: 1110 | Location: Ribe, Denmark

St. Canute's Abbey

St. Canute's Benedictine Abbey (Skt Knuds Kloster) was built to support the pilgrimage centre for the relics of the royal Danish martyr Saint Canute (died 1086), and was the successor to the priory of St. Mary and St. Alban, Denmark's earliest monastic house. Located in Odense, it was the island of Funen's most important medieval religious institution. St. Canute's Abbey was founded in connection with the pilgrimage site ...
Founded: 1096 | Location: Odense, Denmark

Helsingør Cathedral

Helsingør Cathedral or St. Olaf"s Church originates from the 13th century. The current brick church was completed in 1559 and the spire was erected in 1897-1898. The interior dates mainly from the 17th century, baptismal font from 1579.
Founded: 1559 | Location: Helsingør, Denmark

Carmelite Priory

The Carmelite Priory (Vor Frue Kloster) was a house of Carmelite friars in Helsingør. It is the finest example of a complete monastic complex surviving in Denmark, and one of the best in all of Scandinavia. The priory was established in 1430 for a group of Carmelite friars from Landskrona. It was one of three religious houses founded in Helsingør by King Erik VII as it grew from a small fishing village to a ...
Founded: 1430 | Location: Helsingør, Denmark

St. Nicolai Church

St. Nicolai Church dates to the 13th century. Originally built in late Romanesque style and dedicated to the patron saint of merchants and seafarers, the church is the oldest building in the community. Renovations in the 15th century developed the church into a Gothic hall with two transepts and a tower 27.2 m high. On display in a glass-covered sarcophagus in the northern transept are the remains of the Haraldskær Woma ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Vejle, Denmark

Jelling Church

The current Jelling church was built of limestone around the year 1100. Archaeologists have found traces of three earlier wooden churches on the site. The first wooden church built on the site of the present edifice was the largest of its kind anywhere in Scandinavia. Archaeological evidence suggests that it was built in the later 10th century, during the period around 960 when Harald Bluetooth introduced Christianity int ...
Founded: c. 1100 | Location: Jelling, Denmark

St. Nicholas' Church

The church of St. Nicholas was originally built after the establishment of Køge town, but there are only few remains of this church. The nave and tower of the current church were constructed between 1250-1300. It was enlarged and the tower raised higher during next centuries.
Founded: 1250-1300 | Location: Køge, Denmark

St. Catherine's Priory

St. Catherine"s Priory was an important early Dominican friary. The buildings still stand, although there is no monastic community there; known as Ribe Kloster, it is Denmark"s most complete extant monastic building complex. The Dominican priory in Ribe, dedicated to Saint Catherine of Siena, was founded in 1228 by Dominican friars on property given to them by Tuve, Bishop of Ribe, only the second such foundati ...
Founded: 1228 | Location: Ribe, Denmark

Mårup Church Ruins

Mårup Church was built around 1250 in the late Romanesque style. It was a simple brick structure typical of Jutland village churches, consisting of nave and choir. A tower existing in the 18th century was demolished and a free-standing bell tower was erected of wood. The church had arched pilasters, some of which can still be seen. On December 6, 1808, HMS Crescent, a British frigate on its way to Gothenburg, Sweden, sa ...
Founded: 1250 | Location: Hjørring, Denmark

Skagen Old Church Ruins

Skagen Old church, also called as 'Sand-Covered Church' was built in the 14th century and dedicated to Saint Lawrence of Rome. It was a brick church of considerable size and located 2 km south-west of the town centre. The white church tower is all that is visible of the former church, the rest of it demolished and the neighboring village having been buried under the sand from nearby dunes. The church was named for the pa ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Skagen, Denmark

Stege Church

Stege Church was built in the Romanesque style in the early 13th century. It was enlarged to the current size and Gothic style between 1460-1525. The church contains frescos from the 14th and 15th centuries and font from 1625. The altar dates from 1721.
Founded: 13th century | Location: Stege, Denmark

Østerlars Round Church

Østerlars Church is the largest and, possibly, the oldest of the Bornholm island's four round churches. Built in about 1160, it was dedicated to St. Lawrence. It consists of an apse, an oval chancel, a large round nave and has three storeys. There is evidence the church was once fortified, the top storey serving as an open shooting gallery. The fieldstone wall stands on foundations of Bornholm limestone. The double ...
Founded: ca. 1160 | Location: Gudhjem, Denmark

St. Bendt's Church

St. Bendt"s Church was originally part of a Benedictine monastery that burnt down in the 18th century. Built in the Romanesque style, it is the oldest brick church in Scandinavia, dating back to about 1170 when it replaced a travertine church from about 1080. It is considered to be one of Denmark"s architecturally finest churches. Furthermore, it is of special historical interest as it is first Royal church in D ...
Founded: 1170 | Location: Ringsted, Denmark

Svaneke Church

Svaneke Church stands above the harbour at a height of 18 metres on the site of a small chapel which appears to have existed for quite some time before the town received its charter in the 16th century. The church was expanded over the years, the tower and spire being completed in 1789. In 1881, virtually the whole building was rebuilt by architect Mathias Bidstrup of Rønne, leaving only the tower and a small secti ...
Founded: 16th century | Location: Rønne, Denmark

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Wawel Castle

Wawel Hill – a Jurassic limestone rock, a dominant feature in the landscape of Kraków, have provided a safe haven for people who have settled here since the Paleolithic Age. It is supposed that the Slav people started living on Wawel hill as early as the 7th century. Early medieval legends tell stories about a dreadful dragon that lived in a cave on Wawel Hill, about his slayer Krakus, and about the latter’s daughter Wanda, who drowned herself in the Vistula rather than marry a German knight. Towards the end of the first millennium A.D Wawel began to play the role of the centre of political power.In the 9th century it became the principal fortified castrum of the Vislane tribe. The first historical ruler of Poland, Miesco I (c.965-992) of the Piast dynasty as well as his successors: Boleslas the Brave (992-1025) and Miesco II (1025-1034) chose Wawel Hill as one of their residences.

At that time Wawel became one of the main Polish centres of Christianity. The first early Romanesque and Romanesque sacral buildings were raised here, including a stone cathedral that was erected after the bishopric of Kraków was established in the year 1000.

During the reign of Casimir the Restorer (1034-1058) Wawel became a significant political and administrative centre for the Polish State. Casimir’s son, Boleslas the Bold (1058-1079) began the construction of a second Romanesque cathedral, which was finished by Boleslas the Wrymouth (1102-1138). In his last will of 1138, this prince divided Poland into districts, and provided that Kraków was to be the residence of the senior prince. In 1291 the city of Kraków along with Wawel Hill temporarily fell under the Czech rule, and Wenceslas II from the Premysl dynasty was crowned King of Poland in Wawel cathedral.

In 1306 the Duke of Kuyavia Ladislas the Short (1306-1333) entered Wawel and was crowned King of Poland in the Cathedral in 1320. It was the first historically recorded coronation of a Polish ruler on Wawel Hill. Around that time, at the initiative of Ladislas the Short, the construction of the third Gothic cathedral began, the castle was expanded and the old wooden and earthen fortifications were replaced by brick ones. The tomb of Ladislas the Short in the cathedral started a royal necropolis of Polish kings in Krakow.The last descendant of the Piast dynasty, Casimir the Great (1333-1370) brought Wawel to a state of unprecedented splendour. In 1364 the expanded gothic castle witnessed the marriage of Casimir’s granddaughter Elizabeth to Charles IV accompanied by a famous convention of kings and princes, subsequently entertained by a rich burgher Wierzynek. The accession to the throne in 1385 of Jadwiga from the Hungarian dynasty of Andegavens, and her marriage to a Lithuanian prince Ladislas Jagiello (1386-1434) started another era of prosperity for Wawel. The royal court employed local and western European artists and also Rus painters. During the reign of Casimir Jagiellon (1447-1492) the silhouette of the hill was enriched by three high brick towers: the Thieves’ Tower, the Sandomierz Tower and the Senatorial Tower. The first humanists in Poland and tutors to the king’s sons: historian Jan Długosz and an Italian by the name Filippo Buonacorsi (also known as Callimachus) worked there at that time.

The Italian Renaissance arrived at Wawel in the early 16th century. King Alexander (1501-1506) and his brother Sigismund I the Old (1506-1548) commissioned the construction of a new palace in place of the Gothic residence, with an impressive large courtyard with arcaded galleries which was completed about 1540. Sigismund’s patronage also left an indelible impression in the cathedral, where a family chapel was erected, known today as Sigismund’s Chapel - the work of Bartolomeo of Berrecci Florence, and through various foundations, one of which was that of a large bell, called the Sigismund to commemorate the king. Close artistic and cultural relations with Italy were strengthened in 1518 by the king’s marriage to Bona Sforza. Alongside Italian artists, German architects, wood workers, painters and metal smiths worked for the king. The last descendant of the Jagiellonian dynasty, Sigismund II Augustus (1548-1572), enriched the castle’s interiors with a magnificent collection of tapestries woven in Brussels. In the “Golden Age” of Polish culture Wawel became one of the main centres of humanism in Europe.

The reign of Sigismund III Waza (1587-1632) also made a strong impression on the history of Wawel. After a fire in the castle in 1595 the king rebuilt the burned wing of the building in the early Baroque style. The relocation of the royal court to Warsaw was the cause of a slow but nevertheless steady deterioration in the castle’s condition. The monarchs visited Kraków only occasionally. Restoration of the castle was undertaken during the reign of John III Sobieski, the Wettins and Stanislas Augustus to counteract neglect.

After Poland had lost its independence in 1795, the troops of partitioning nations, Russia, Prussia and Austria, subsequently occupied Wawel which finally passed into the hands of the Austrians. The new owners converted the castle and some of the secular buildings into a military hospital, and demolished some others, including churches. After the period of the Free City of Kraków (1815-1846) Wawel was once more annexed by Austria and turned into a citadel dominating the city. By the resolution passed by the Seym of Galicia in 1880, the castle was presented as a residence to the Emperor of Austria Franz Josef I. The Austrian troops left the hill between 1905-1911. At the turn of the 20th century a thorough restoration of the cathedral was conducted, and shortly afterwards a process of restoration of the royal castle began which lasted several decades.

When Poland regained its independence in 1918, the castle served as an official residence of the Head of State, and as a museum of historic interiors. During the Nazi occupation the castle was the residence of the German governor general, Hans Frank. Polish people managed to remove the most valuable objects, including the tapestries and the “Szczerbiec” coronation sword to Canada, from where they returned as late as 1959-1961. At present, the main curators of Wawel are Wawel Royal Castle – State Art Collection and the Metropolitan Basilica Board on Wawel Hill.