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 the first ...
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 northern Jutland, also kn ...
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

Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte

The Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte is a baroque French château built between 1658-1661 for Nicolas Fouquet. It was made for Marquis de Belle Île, Viscount of Melun and Vaux, the superintendent of finances of Louis XIV, the château was an influential work of architecture in mid-17th century Europe. At Vaux-le-Vicomte, the architect Louis Le Vau, the landscape architect André le Nôtre, and the painter-decorator Charles Le Brun worked together on a large-scale project for the first time. Their collaboration marked the beginning of the 'Louis XIV style' combining architecture, interior design and landscape design. The garden's pronounced visual axis is an example of this style.

To secure the necessary grounds for the elaborate plans for Vaux-le-Vicomte’s garden and castle, Fouquet purchased and demolished three villages. The displaced villagers were then employed in the upkeep and maintenance of the gardens. It was said to have employed eighteen thousand workers and cost as much as 16 million livres. The château and its patron became for a short time a focus for fine feasts, literature and arts. The poet La Fontaine and the playwright Molière were among the artists close to Fouquet. At the inauguration of Vaux-le-Vicomte, a Molière play was performed, along with a dinner event organized by François Vatel, and an impressive firework show.

After Fouquet was arrested and imprisoned for life, and his wife exiled, Vaux-le-Vicomte was placed under sequestration. The king seized, confiscated or purchased 120 tapestries, the statues, and all the orange trees from Vaux-le-Vicomte. He then sent the team of artists (Le Vau, Le Nôtre and Le Brun) to design what would be a much larger project than Vaux-le-Vicomte, the palace and gardens of Versailles.

The Marshal Villars became the new owner without first seeing the chateau. In 1764, the Marshal's son sold the estate to the Duke of Praslin, whose descendants would maintain the property for over a century. It is sometimes mistakenly reported that the château was the scene of a murder in 1847, when duke Charles de Choiseul-Praslin, killed his wife in her bedroom, but this did not happen at Vaux-le-Vicomte but at the Paris residence of the Duke.

In 1875, after thirty years of neglect, the estate was sold to Alfred Sommier in a public auction. The château was empty, some of the outbuildings had fallen into ruin, and the famous gardens were totally overgrown. The huge task of restoration and refurbishment began under the direction of the architect Gabriel-Hippolyte Destailleur, assisted by the landscape architect Elie Lainé. When Sommier died in 1908, the château and the gardens had recovered their original appearance. His son, Edme Sommier, and his daughter-in-law completed the task. Today, his descendants continue to preserve the château, which remains privately owned by Patrice and Cristina de Vogüé, the Count and Countess de Vogüé. It is now administered by their three sons Alexandre, Jean-Charles and Ascanio de Vogüé. Recognized by the state as a monument historique, it is open to the public regularly.

Architecture

The chateau is situated near the northern end of a 1.5-km long north-south axis with the entrance front facing north. Its elevations are perfectly symmetrical to either side of this axis. Somewhat surprisingly the interior plan is also nearly completely symmetrical with few differences between the eastern and western halves. The two rooms in the center, the entrance vestibule to the north and the oval salon to the south, were originally an open-air loggia, dividing the chateau into two distinct sections. The interior decoration of these two rooms was therefore more typical of an outdoor setting. Three sets of three arches, those on the entrance front, three more between the vestibule and the salon, and the three leading from the salon to the garden are all aligned and permitted the arriving visitor to see through to the central axis of the garden even before entering the chateau. The exterior arches could be closed with iron gates, and only later were they filled in with glass doors and the interior arches with mirrored doors. Since the loggia divided the building into two halves, there are two symmetrical staircases on either side of it, rather than a single staircase. The rooms in the eastern half of the house were intended for the use of the king, those in the western were for Fouquet. The provision of a suite of rooms for the king was normal practice in aristocratic houses of the time, since the king travelled frequently.

Another surprising feature of the plan is the thickness of the main body of the building (corps de logis), which consists of two rows of rooms running east and west. Traditionally the middle of the corps de logis of French chateaux consisted of a single row of rooms. Double-thick corps de logis had already been used in hôtels particuliers in Paris, including Le Vau's Hôtel Tambonneau, but Vaux was the first chateau to incorporate this change. Even more unusual, the main rooms are all on the ground floor rather than the first floor (the traditional piano nobile). This accounts for the lack of a grand staircase or a gallery, standard elements of most contemporary chateaux. Also noteworthy are corridors in the basement and on the first floor which run the length of house providing privacy to the rooms they access. Up to the middle of the 17th century, corridors were essentially unknown. Another feature of the plan, the four pavilions, one at each corner of the building, is more conventional.

Vaux-le-Vicomte was originally planned to be constructed in brick and stone, but after the mid-century, as the middle classes began to imitate this style, aristocratic circles began using stone exclusively. Rather late in the design process, Fouquet and Le Vau switched to stone, a decision that may have been influenced by the use of stone at François Mansart's Château de Maisons. The service buildings flanking the large avant-cour to the north of the house remained in brick and stone, and other structures preceding them were in rubble-stone and plaster, a social ranking of building materials that would be common in France for a considerable length of time thereafter.

The main chateau is constructed entirely on a moated platform, reached via two bridges, both aligned with the central axis and placed on the north and south sides. The moat is a picturesque holdover from medieval fortified residences, and is again a feature that Le Vau may have borrowed from Maisons. The moat at Vaux may also have been inspired by the previous chateau on the site, which Le Vau's work replaced.

Gardens

The château rises on an elevated platform in the middle of the woods and marks the border between unequal spaces, each treated in a different way. This effect is more distinctive today, as the woodlands are mature, than it was in the seventeenth century when the site had been farmland, and the plantations were new.

Le Nôtre's garden was the dominant structure of the great complex, stretching nearly a mile and a half (3 km), with a balanced composition of water basins and canals contained in stone curbs, fountains, gravel walks, and patterned parterres that remains more coherent than the vast display Le Nôtre was to create at Versailles.

Le Nôtre created a magnificent scene to be viewed from the house, using the laws of perspective. Le Notre used the natural terrain to his advantage. He placed the canal at the lowest part of the complex, thus hiding it from the main perspectival point of view. Past the canal, the garden ascends a large open lawn and ends with the Hercules column added in the 19th century. Shrubberies provided a picture frame to the garden that also served as a stage for royal fêtes.

From the top of the grand staircase, this gives the impression that the entire garden is revealed in one single glance. Initially, the view consists of symmetrical rows of shrubbery, avenues, fountains, statues, flowers and other pieces developed to imitate nature – these elements exemplify the Baroque desire to mold nature to fit its wishes, thus using nature to imitate nature. The centerpiece is a large reflecting pool flanked by grottos holding statues in their many niches. The grand sloping lawn is not visible until one begins to explore the garden, when the viewer is made aware of the optical elements involved and discovers that the garden is much larger than it looks.