Round churches

Hagby Church

Hagby Church is one of Sweden's few preserved round churches, and is considered by many to be the best preserved one in the country. The predecessor of Hagby stone church was the wooded Saint Sigfrid chapel, which was located about two kilometres south of the present church structure. The construction of this stone church began in the late 12th century. The structure was meant to serve both as a sanctuary and a fortified ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Ljungbyholm, Sweden

Thorsager Church

Thorsager round church is the only one of its kind in Jutland (and one of Denmark's seven medieval round churches). It was built of brick around 1200 and is one of Jutland's oldest brick buildings - perhaps the oldest. Its thick walls (1m) are an indication of the defensive role it played. The church may lie on the site of a pre-Christian sacrificial place for the god Thor. The size of the church and its architecture s ...
Founded: c. 1200 | Location: Rønde, Denmark

Valleberga Church

Valleberga Church is the only known fortified round church in Scania. It was built of limestone in the middle of the 12th century. A reason for the building of the round church was that the master mason of the church, Carl Stenmester, also built churches on Bornholm, where round churches were common. The font was cut by the master of Tryde and shows one of the legends about Saint Peter and Paul of Tarsus. In 1791, the ro ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Löderup, Sweden

Munsö Church

Munsö Church is one of a few medieval round churches in Sweden. Traces of permanent habitations dating from the Bronze or Iron Age have been found in the area, and several of the larger farmsteads in the area are traceable back to the Iron Age. Munsö Church was possibly built for one such farm, called Bona. The church dates from the 12th century. The exact date is unknown, but given the peculiarity that the chu ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Ekerö, Sweden

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

Skörstorp Church

Skörstorp Church was built in the middle of the 12th century, and is the only remaining medieval round church in the Diocese of Skara. It derives its shape from originally being built to serve several different purposes; apart from a place of worship, it also served a defensive purpose, i.e. it was a fortified church. The church has been altered successively throughout the centuries. The church porch is not original tho ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Falköping, Sweden

Voxtorp Church

Voxtorp is one of the two interesting round churches in the Kalmar region. It was built at the beginning of the 13th century as the church of a large medieval farm. According to a legend, Voxtorp Church was built by a rich woman named Lona, who built it so she would not need to go to the church a gentry in Halltorp built on his manor. Like the other churches in the area, Voxtorp became a fortified church. During the 13th ...
Founded: c. 1240 | Location: Ljungbyholm, Sweden

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Quimper Cathedral

From 1239, Raynaud, the Bishop of Quimper, decided on the building of a new chancel destined to replace that of the Romanesque era. He therefore started, in the far west, the construction of a great Gothic cathedral which would inspire cathedral reconstructions in the Ile de France and would in turn become a place of experimentation from where would later appear ideas adopted by the whole of lower Brittany. The date of 1239 marks the Bishop’s decision and does not imply an immediate start to construction. Observation of the pillar profiles, their bases, the canopies, the fitting of the ribbed vaults of the ambulatory or the alignment of the bays leads us to believe, however, that the construction was spread out over time.

The four circular pillars mark the start of the building site, but the four following adopt a lozenge-shaped layout which could indicate a change of project manager. The clumsiness of the vaulted archways of the north ambulatory, the start of the ribbed vaults at the height of the south ambulatory or the choice of the vaults descending in spoke-form from the semi-circle which allows the connection of the axis chapel to the choir – despite the manifest problems of alignment – conveys the hesitancy and diverse influences in the first phase of works which spread out until the start of the 14th century.

At the same time as this facade was built (to which were added the north and south gates) the building of the nave started in the east and would finish by 1460. The nave is made up of six bays with one at the level of the facade towers and flanked by double aisles – one wide and one narrow (split into side chapels) – in an extension of the choir arrangements.

The choir presents four right-hand bays with ambulatory and side chapels. It is extended towards the east of 3-sided chevet which opens onto a semi-circle composed of five chapels and an apsidal chapel of two bays and a flat chevet consecrated to Our Lady.

The three-level elevation with arches, triforium and galleries seems more uniform and expresses anglo-Norman influence in the thickness of the walls (Norman passageway at the gallery level) or the decorative style (heavy mouldings, decorative frieze under the triforium). This building site would have to have been overseen in one shot. Undoubtedly interrupted by the war of Succession (1341-1364) it draws to a close with the building of the lierne vaults (1410) and the fitting of stained-glass windows. Bishop Bertrand de Rosmadec and Duke Jean V, whose coat of arms would decorate these vaults, finished the chancel before starting on the building of the facade and the nave.

Isolated from its environment in the 19th century, the cathedral was – on the contrary – originally very linked to its surroundings. Its site and the orientation of the facade determined traffic flow in the town. Its positioning close to the south walls resulted in particuliarities such as the transfer of the side gates on to the north and south facades of the towers: the southern portal of Saint Catherine served the bishop’s gate and the hospital located on the left bank (the current Préfecture) and the north gate was the baptismal porch – a true parish porch with its benches and alcoves for the Apostles’ statues turned towards the town, completed by an ossuary (1514).

The west porch finds its natural place between the two towers. The entire aesthetic of these three gates springs from the Flamboyant era: trefoil, curly kale, finials, large gables which cut into the mouldings and balustrades. Pinnacles and recesses embellish the buttresses whilst an entire bestiary appears: monsters, dogs, mysterious figures, gargoyles, and with them a whole imaginary world promoting a religious and political programme. Even though most of the saints statues have disappeared an armorial survives which makes the doors of the cathedral one of the most beautiful heraldic pages imaginable: ducal ermine, the Montfort lion, Duchess Jeanne of France’s coat of arms side by side with the arms of the Cornouaille barons with their helmets and crests. One can imagine the impact of this sculpted decor with the colour and gilding which originally completed it.

At the start of the 16th century the construction of the spires was being prepared when building was interrupted, undoubtedly for financial reasons. Small conical roofs were therefore placed on top of the towers. The following centuries were essentially devoted to putting furnishings in place (funeral monuments, altars, statues, organs, pulpit). Note the fire which destroyed the spire of the transept cross in 1620 as well as the ransacking of the cathedral in 1793 when nearly all the furnishings disappeared in a « bonfire of the saints ».

The 19th century would therefore inherit an almost finished but mutilated building and would devote itself to its renovation according to the tastes and theories of the day.