Medieval churches in Denmark

Sebber Priory

Sebber Priory was established between 1250 and 1268 as a house for Benedictine nuns. The priory was dedicated to St. Lawrence. Its founding details are uncertain; it may have begun as an Augustinian house. One question about Sebber Priory has always been why it was located on the coast in such an isolated location. It appears that Sebber was already a village in Viking times, a trading place for ships plying the Limfjord ...
Founded: c. 1250 | Location: Nibe, Denmark

Skibinge Church

The beautiful whitewashed Skibinge church stands on the top of a hill in the outskirts of Skibinge. It was built in the 12th century, and the porch and the tower was added after the 15th centrury. The interior is decorated with a late Gothic pulpit from about 1500 and a beautiful altarpiece from 1669.
Founded: 12th century | Location: Præstø, Denmark

Magleby Church

Magleby Church was originally built in the Romanesque style in the second half of the 13th century. The rounded tops of bricked-in windows from this period can still be seen on either side of the nave. In the 15th and 16th centuries, the church was converted to the Gothic style with cross vaults, Gothic windows and a number of additions and extensions. The tower which dates back to the older parts of the church originally ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Borre, Denmark

Østofte Church

Østofte Church was built in the 14th century. The Romanesque apse, chancel and nave formed the original building while the tower and porch were added in the Late-Gothic period and the north wing was completed in 1656. The church was dedicated to St Peter, probably in 1345. King Christopher of Bavaria transferred ownership to Maribo Abbey as first documented in 1451. That ownership remained after the Reformation wh ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Nørreballe, Denmark

Grindsted Church

Grindsted Church was built in the 1100s and enlarged around 1300. A granite ashlar and brick porch was added to the south door of the nave in the 1500s.
Founded: 12th century | Location: Grindsted, Denmark

St. Knud's Church

St. Knud’s is a traditional old village church, situated some distance to the east of Rønne town centre. It was built around the year 1150. It is the smallest church on Bornholm. The little church’s interior is of slightly more recent provenance - the altar dating from the 17th century and the interior decoration from the 18th.
Founded: ca. 1150 | Location: Rønne, Denmark

Ruth's Church

Ruth's Church (Ruts Kirke) was built in the early 13th century in the Romanesque style. Situated on a hilltop 130 m above sea level, it is the island's highest-standing church. The oldest reference to the church dates from 1490 where Sancti Michelssogen (St Michael's Parish) is mentioned. The church was initially consecrated as St Michael's, possibly because of its high location. By 1621, the name had become Ruth's Church ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Hasle, Denmark

Gundsømagle Church

Gundsømagle Church was completed around the year 1100. The pulpit is from about 1610. The vicar"s stull was made by Caspar Lubbeke in 1657. The frescoes in the chancel arches date from the 12th century.
Founded: c. 1100 | Location: Roskilde, Denmark

Skrøbelev Church

Skrøbelev Church was probably built in the 1100s. The church consists of a Romanesque nave, which in the late Gothic period was reconstructed to its present form with the addition of a chancel, tower to the west, vestry to the north and porch to the south. A number of interesting bas reliefs have been preserved on the exterior of the Romanesque part of the church. The mural paintings date back to the late Gothic pe ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Rudkobing, Denmark

Errindlev Church

Errindlev Church dates from the second half of the 12th century. It has a Romanesque chancel and nave. The church is said to have been dedicated to St Nicholas because of its associations with seafarers who used it as a landmark. After the Reformation it belonged to the Crown until in 1699 it was transferred to Flemming Holck til Lungholm whose estate was acquired by Christian Detlev Reventlow. As a result, it later came ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Errindlev, Denmark

Holeby Church

Holeby Church was built in the mid-1200s. Its Romanesque architecture is more simple than in other churches in Lolland island. The most notable inventory is a so-called Holeby Crucifix from the 1300s, which is today located at Maribo Museum. The unusually big baptismal font was made in Gotland. The pulpit dates from 1586 and altar from 1590. It is also known that the preceding altar depicted St. John Chrysostom and the ch ...
Founded: c. 1250 | Location: Holeby, Denmark

Sandby Church

Sandby Church dates from the middle of the 13th century and it has a Romanesque chancel and nave and a Late Gothic tower. Little is known of the church"s early history other than the Crown had clerical appointment rights before the Reformation. It remained under the Crown until 1679 when it was transferred to the episcopal authority of Funen. In 1726, it passed into the ownership of the Danneskiold-Samsøe til ...
Founded: c. 1250 | Location: Harpelunde, Denmark

Bjernede Church

Bjernede Church is one of only eight round churches in Denmark and the only one of its kind on the island of Zealand. The present church was built in circa 1170 by Sune Ebbesen from the influential Hvide family who belonged to the circle around King Valdemar II. His father, Ebbe Skjalmsen, the uncle of Bishop Absalon, had previously built a wooden church at the site. The tower of Sune Ebbesen"s round church contains ...
Founded: c. 1170 | Location: Sorø, Denmark

Rise Church

Rise Church was built in the late 12th century in Romanesque style. It has been enlarged twice, latter in 1697. The triptych was made between 1300-1450 and Renaissance pulpit in 1624.
Founded: 12th century | Location: Ærøskøbing, Denmark

Avnede Church

Avnede Church was originally a wooden structure, probably one of the first to be built on Lolland in the early 11th century. It was located near a spring known in pre-Christian times and later Christianized as St Lawrence"s spring. It was well known for the powerful effects of its waters. The church itself was also originally dedicated to St Lawrence. Today"s stone building dates from the end of the 14th century ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Nakskov, Denmark

Hunseby Church

Hunseby Church was built in the mid-1100s with a Romanesque chancel and nave and a Gothic tower. The church was originally dedicated to St. Andrew as can be seen from the inscription on the oldest bell from 1465. From Romanesque inscriptions in the stonework supporting an old portal, it appears the church must have existed in the middle of the 12th century. Little is known of its early ownership apart from the fact that t ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Maribo, Denmark

Kettinge Church

Kettinge Church was built between 1200 and 1250 and enlarged strongly in the early 1300s. Vaults were also added then and decorated by so-called Elmelunde Master or his students. The font is the oldest item in the church. Also one bell (1401) and crucifix date from the Catholic Age. The altar and pulpit were carved in 1612.
Founded: 1200-1250 | Location: Kettinge, Denmark

Radsted Church

The oldest part of Radsted Church was built around 1200 in Late Romanesque style. the chancel was demolished in the early 1300s and rebuilt in Gothic style. The tower was originally erected in c. 1400 and restored in 1621. Radsted Church was enlarged in the 1600s and restored 1868-1870. The Renaissance altar and pulpit date from 1610. The font is made in Gotland and dates from the 1300s.
Founded: c. 1200 | Location: Sakskobing, Denmark

Toreby Church

Toreby Church was built around 1200 and it is an unusually large red-brick Romanesque building, the nave and chancel having been extended in the Gothic period with a sacristy and lateral aisle. The tower was constructed in late Gothic times, shortly after the church was built. The sacristy to the north of the chancel was built at the beginning of the 14th century. The aisles were added in the Gothic period, first the one ...
Founded: c. 1200 | Location: Toreby, Denmark

Utterslev Church

Utterslev Church was built in the 13th century. It has a half-circled apse, tower and vestry decorated with beautiful blinds. The pulpit and altarpiece date from the seventeenth century. The centre of the altarpiece houses a painting by the renowned Danish church artist Dorph in the 19th century.
Founded: 13th century | Location: Horslunde, 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.