Medieval churches in Denmark

Nyborg Church

Nyborg church or Church of Our Lady was built between 1388–1428 and was dedicated to Jesus" mother, Mary, on the opening during Pentecost 1428. The crucifix is the only piece of inventory in the church, which is preserved from the original layout at the inauguration in 1428. The Gothic crucifix is decorated with small leaves, symbolizing the crucifix as a tree of life.
Founded: 1388-1428 | Location: Nyborg, Denmark

Olsker Church

Sankt Ols Kirke (St Olaf's Church), also known as Olsker Church, is a 12th century round church located in the village of Olsker. Built in the Romanesque style and reaching three storeys high, it has from the beginning consisted of a round nave, a choir and an apse. The church was named after the revered King Olaf II of Norway who fell at the Battle of Stiklestad in 1030. The church first belonged to the Archbishopric of ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Allinge, Denmark

Nylars Church

Nylars Church (Nylars Kirke) is a round church built around 1165. The church was dedicated to St Nicholas. Originally designed for a defensive role, the solid structure contains a series of 13th century frescoes, the oldest of Bornholm's four round churches. The three storeys are built of fieldstone and with window and door frames of limestone. The original defensive systems are largely intact. The decorated south door i ...
Founded: ca. 1165 | Location: Aakirkeby, Denmark

Esrum Abbey

Esrum Abbey, also Esrom Abbey was the second Cistercian monastery founded in Denmark. It began as a Benedictine foundation, perhaps in about 1140, and was built near a pre-Christian religious site, later called Esrum Spring, where a small wooden stave chapel may have existed before the abbey was established. The foundation was taken over by the Cistercians in 1151 on the authority of Archbishop Eskil of Lund, and was coun ...
Founded: c. 1140 | Location: Graested, Denmark

Veng Abbey Church

Veng Abbey was one of Denmark's earliest Benedictine monasteries, established in the late 1060s, with connections to the royal forebears of King Valdemar I. By the 1160s the abbey had fallen into a severe decline: the original endowments failed to sustain it, and it had gained a reputation for being 'unruly'. Eventually Abbot Jens was brought before a church tribunal and forced to give up his office on the grounds of immo ...
Founded: 1060s | Location: Skanderborg, Denmark

Jungshoved Church

Jungshoved Church is a Danish romanesque church situated nearby the banks of Stavreby cove, on the place where Jungshoved castle lay in former times. The oldest part of the church is built in the years 1225-1250 in late romanesque style, while the last part of the church is built in the 1500 century in late gothic style. The baptismal font and altarpiece are decorated with reliefs by Bertel Thorvaldsen. The pulpit in Hig ...
Founded: 1225-1250 | Location: Praesto, Denmark

Vestervig Abbey Church

Vestervig Abbey was established in about 1059 making it one of Denmark"s most ancient religious houses. About 1030 Saint Thøger settled at Vestervig and built the first wattle and clay church in Thy. Thøger was a Thuringian missionary who had been living in England when Olaf II went there on a Viking expedition. Thøger"s wonderful sermons brought an invitation to return to Norway with Olav a ...
Founded: 1059 | Location: Vestervig, Denmark

Nakskov Church

Nakskov Church is the largest church in Nakskov on the east coast of the Danish island of Lolland. As Nakskov was mentioned in Valdemar"s Census Book in the 13th century, the church probably dates to the same period. Remains of a wooden church from c. 1000 were unearthed in the 1950s. It was replaced by a brick church dedicated to Saint Nicholas which is first mentioned in 1398 although its oldest sections probably d ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Nakskov, Denmark

Herlufsholm Church

Herlufsholm Church is Denmark's broadest single nave church and was the monastery church for the Woodland Monastery of the Benedictine Order. The church dates back to 1135. When Herluf Trolle and his wife Birgitte Goeye acquired the monastery in 1560, the church was renamed Herlufsholm and it became the area's parish church. In the chapel under the choir, Herluf Trolle and Birgitte Goeye lay buried. They are also remember ...
Founded: 1135 | Location: Næstved, Denmark

Brønshøj Church

Brønshøj Church was built in the 1180s by Bishop Absalon, who is regarded as the founder of Copenhagen. This makes the Church the oldest intact building in Copenhagen. Originally dedicated to Saint Lawrence, Brønshøj Church is first mentioned in two papal briefs of 21 October 1186 and 25 March 1193. Limestone from Stevns Klint was used to build the Romanesque-style nave and choir. The red-brick ...
Founded: 1180s | Location: Copenhagen, Denmark

St. Clemens Church

Rømø church was built around 1200 but extended in the 17th and 18th centuries when the island prospered due to whaling. The church is consecrated to the patron saint of sailors, St. Clemens and many ship models, donated by seamen, are hanging in the church. During the last century, rights to have one"s name on a church pew were sold, the proceeds being used for church expenses, and many of these can be ...
Founded: c. 1200 | Location: Rømø, Denmark

Church of Our Lady

The Church of Our Lady with its five distinctive towers is the most imposing landmark of Kalundborg. The church is built of red brick, indicating that it was constructed no earlier than 1170 when brick was first used in Denmark. Coincidentally, this is also the date of nearby Esbern Snare"s castle, the site"s first fortification. The architectural design, however, would indicate a rather later date, possibly in ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Kalundborg, Denmark

Bregninge Church

Bregninge Church was originally a Romanesque church from the 1200s with monumental Gothic arches built in the late 1400s. The impressive steeple of the tower (characteristic of eastern Slesvig) is covered with oak shingles. The frescoes from c. 1510 were uncovered 1915-22 and most recently restored in 1956. Outstanding triptych dates from the early 1500s. It was created by the famous master Claus Berg. The roof dates from ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Ærøskøbing, Denmark

Store Heddinge Church

Store Heddinge Church was built circa 1200 at the same time when the town was established. It is dedicated to St. Catherine (Sankt Katharina).
Founded: c. 1200 | Location: Store Heddinge, Denmark

Fanefjord Church

Fanefjord Church is one of the Danish island of Møn"s most famous attractions. The site itself is of considerable historic interest. A few hundred meters to the south of the church there is a particularly long barrow, Grønsalen, the supposed burial ground of Queen Fane and her husband Grøn Jæger who, according to a local folklore, lived some 4,000 years ago. The church"s original 7 m ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Askeby, Denmark

Børglum Abbey

Børglum Abbey was originally a royal farm which dated back as far as 1000, if not earlier. In 1086 King Canute IV fled from his residence at Børglum when the peasants revolted against him. The royal residence was burned to the ground but rebuilt sometime later. At some point between 1134 and 1139, the royal estate at Børglum was granted to the church to become the new seat of the bishopric of norther ...
Founded: c. 1134 | Location: Vrå, Denmark

Kirkerup Church

Kirkerup Church is one of the oldest churches in the diocese of Roskilde. It dates back to the 12th century and is well worth a visit due many beautiful Romanesque and Gothic frescos.
Founded: 12th century | Location: Roskilde, Denmark

Eskilsø Abbey Ruins

The Augustinian monastery was built in the around the year 1100 and moved to Æbelholt in north Zealand around 1175. The small abbey was 28m long building with a nave, apse, chancel and porch.
Founded: c. 1100 | Location: Skibby, Denmark

Roskilde Abbey

Roskilde Abbey or Our Lady"s Abbey was a monastery of nuns dedicated to Saint Mary the Virgin. It was founded in the early 12th century for Benedictine nuns, but in 1177 became part of the Cistercian reform movement. It was chiefly known for the tomb of Saint Margrethe or Margaret of Ølsemagle or of Højelse (both names of places near Køge), who, although murdered by her husband, had been wrongly ...
Founded: 1176 | Location: Roskilde, Denmark

Sakskøbing Church

Sakskøbing Church was built in the late 1200s and during following centuries the original church was extended with a nave and tower. The present 48m high tower was built in 1852. The altarpiece from the 1500s is a late Gothic wood carving from Lübeck. The pulpit dates from about 1620.
Founded: 13th century | Location: Sakskøbing, Denmark

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Reims Cathedral

Notre-Dame de Reims (Our Lady of Reims) is the seat of the Archdiocese of Reims, where the kings of France were crowned. The cathedral replaced an older church, destroyed by fire in 1211, that was built on the site of the basilica where Clovis was baptized by Saint Remi, bishop of Reims, in AD 496. That original structure had itself been erected on the site of some Roman baths. A major tourism destination, the cathedral receives about one million visitors annually.

History

Excavations have shown that the present building occupies roughly the same site as the original cathedral, founded c. 400 under the episcopacy of St Nicaise. That church was rebuilt during the Carolingian period and further extended in the 12th century. On 19 May 1051, King Henry I of France and Anne of Kiev were married in the cathedral.

On May 6, 1210 the cathedral was damaged by fire and reconstruction started shortly after, beginning at the eastern end. Documentary records show the acquisition of land to the west of the site in 1218, suggesting the new cathedral was substantially larger than its predecessors, the lengthening of the nave presumably being an adaptation to afford room for the crowds that attended the coronations. In 1233 a long-running dispute between the cathedral chapter and the townsfolk (regarding issues of taxation and legal jurisdiction) boiled over into open revolt. Several clerics were killed or injured during the resulting violence and the entire cathedral chapter fled the city, leaving it under an interdict (effectively banning all public worship and sacraments). Work on the new cathedral was suspended for three years, only resuming in 1236 after the clergy returned to the city and the interdict was lifted following mediation by the King and the Pope. Construction then continued more slowly. The area from the crossing eastwards was in use by 1241 but the nave was not roofed until 1299 (when the French King lifted the tax on lead used for that purpose). Work on the west facade took place in several phases, which is reflected in the very different styles of some of the sculptures. The upper parts of the facade were completed in the 14th century, but apparently following 13th century designs, giving Reims an unusual unity of style.

Unusually the names of the cathedral's original architects are known. A labyrinth built into floor of the nave at the time of construction or shortly after (similar to examples at Chartres and Amiens) included the names of four master masons (Jean d'Orbais, Jean-Le-Loup, Gaucher de Reims and Bernard de Soissons) and the number of years they worked there, though art historians still disagree over who was responsible for which parts of the building. The labyrinth itself was destroyed in 1779 but its details and inscriptions are known from 18th century drawings. The clear association here between a labyrinth and master masons adds weight to the argument that such patterns were an allusion to the emerging status of the architect (through their association with the mythical artificer Daedalus, who built the Labyrinth of King Minos). The cathedral also contains further evidence of the rising status of the architect in the tomb of Hugues Libergier (d. 1268, architect of the now-destroyed Reims church of St-Nicaise). Not only is he given the honor of an engraved slab; he is shown holding a miniature model of his church (an honor formerly reserved for noble donors) and wearing the academic garb befitting an intellectual.

The towers, 81 m tall, were originally designed to rise 120m. The south tower holds just two great bells; one of them, named “Charlotte” by Charles, Cardinal of Lorraine in 1570, weighs more than 10,000 kg.

During the Hundred Years' War the cathedral was under siege by the English from 1359 to 1360. After it fell the English held Reims and the Cathedral until 1429 when it was liberated by Joan of Arc which allowed the Dauphin Charles to be crowned king on 17 July 1429.

In 1875 the French National Assembly voted £80,000 for repairs of the façade and balustrades. The façade is the finest portion of the building, and one of the great masterpieces of the Middle Ages.

German shellfire during the opening engagements of the First World War on 20 September 1914 burned, damaged and destroyed important parts of the cathedral. Scaffolding around the north tower caught fire, spreading the blaze to all parts of the carpentry superstructure. The lead of the roofs melted and poured through the stone gargoyles, destroying in turn the bishop's palace. Images of the cathedral in ruins were used during the war as propaganda images by the French against the Germans and their deliberate destruction of buildings rich in national and cultural heritage. Restoration work began in 1919, under the direction of Henri Deneux, a native of Reims and chief architect of the Monuments Historiques; the cathedral was fully reopened in 1938, thanks in part to financial support from the Rockefellers, but work has been steadily going on since.

Exterior

The three portals are laden with statues and statuettes; among European cathedrals, only Chartres has more sculpted figures. The central portal, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, is surmounted by a rose window framed in an arch itself decorated with statuary, in place of the usual sculptured tympanum. The 'gallery of the kings' above shows the baptism of Clovis in the centre flanked by statues of his successors.

The facades of the transepts are also decorated with sculptures. That on the North has statues of bishops of Reims, a representation of the Last Judgment and a figure of Jesus (le Beau Dieu), while that on the south side has a modern rose window with the prophets and apostles. Fire destroyed the roof and the spires in 1481: of the four towers that flanked the transepts, nothing remains above the height of the roof. Above the choir rises an elegant lead-covered timber bell tower that is 18 m tall, reconstructed in the 15th century and in the 1920s.

Interior

The interior comprises a nave with aisles, transepts with aisles, a choir with double aisles, and an apse with ambulatory and radiating chapels. It has interesting stained glass ranging from the 13th to the 20th century. The rose window over the main portal and the gallery beneath are of rare magnificence.

The cathedral possesses fine tapestries. Of these the most important series is that presented by Robert de Lenoncourt, archbishop under François I (1515-1547), representing the life of the Virgin. They are now to be seen in the former bishop's palace, the Palace of Tau. The north transept contains a fine organ in a flamboyant Gothic case. The choir clock is ornamented with curious mechanical figures. Marc Chagall designed the stained glass installed in 1974 in the axis of the apse.

The treasury, kept in the Palace of Tau, includes many precious objects, among which is the Sainte Ampoule, or holy flask, the successor of the ancient one that contained the oil with which French kings were anointed, which was broken during the French Revolution, a fragment of which the present Ampoule contains.

Notre-Dame de Reims cathedral, the former Abbey of Saint-Remi, and the Palace of Tau were added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1991.