Østerlars Round Church

Gudhjem, Denmark

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-arched apse bears similarities to that in Lund Cathedral. The round nave has an external diameter of 16 meters. In its centre there is a large round hollow column, six meters wide. An opening, known as the oven, leads into a small room inside the column.

Originally there were small Romanesque windows but these were enlarged after the Reformation. During the 16th century, a number of pillars were added to support the outer wall. The conical roof was replaced in the 17th century. The porch is from 1870. The bell tower stands separately from the church in the churchyard, and the bell tower was the original entrance and gate tower. There are two runestones, one inside the porch (c. 1100) and another outside (c.1070).

The church's central column is decorated with frescos from 1350 showing biblical scenes from the Annunciation through to the Passion, ending with Day of Judgment where Jesus judges mankind. Many of the naked figures are sent to hell, symbolized by a huge dragon. They were probably painted some 140 years after the church was built. The frescos, which had been hidden with limewash since the Reformation, were uncovered in 1882. The pulpit is from 1595. The carved altarpiece is from c. 1600.

Erling Haagensen, co-author of The Templars' Secret Island, believes there is a connection between the round churches of Bornholm and the Knights Templar. He believes there are similarities between the geometrical precision of the churches' locations and those of churches in Rennes-le-Châteauin France. He concludes that Østerlars, and the other round churches, could have been used as supply stores for the crusades.

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Address

Vietsvej 25, Gudhjem, Denmark
See all sites in Gudhjem

Details

Founded: ca. 1160
Category: Religious sites in Denmark
Historical period: The First Kingdom (Denmark)

Rating

4.3/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Jesper (5 months ago)
Be sure to check their open hours before going. The closed very early the day we arrived and weren't able to see much. But the garden was nice and the church is beautiful on the outside.
Leif Jessen (7 months ago)
Beautiful
Wayne Palmer (10 months ago)
Very famous Round Church with stunning inside history. Churchyard is very pleasant to walk through but sad that there are many empty plots with previous occupants unable to keep up with rent. A must-do when visiting Bornholm
Ask Bennetzen (16 months ago)
Wonderful historic church! Showing the early transition to Christianity. Definitely worth a visit!
Laurids Binderup (2 years ago)
Pretty church. Charges money for entrance.
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The Cathedral of Limburg is one of the best preserved late Romanesque style buildings. It is unknown When the first church was built above the Lahn river. Archaeological discoveries have revealed traces of a 9th-century church building in the area of the current chapel. It was probably built in Merovingian times as a castle and the chapel added in the early 9th century.

In 910 AD, Count Konrad Kurzbold (cousin of the future King Konrad I) founded a collegiate chapter of 18 canons, who lived according to the rule of Bishop Chrodegang of Metz, on the hilltop site. The original castle chapel was torn down and a three-aisled basilica was built in its place. The foundations of this basilica have been found beneath the present floor.

The construction of current cathedral is dated to 1180-90. The consecration was performed in 1235 by the archbishop of Trier. It seems certain that the cathedral was built in four stages. The first stage encompassed the west facade, the south side aisle, the choir and the transept up to the matroneum. This section forms the Conradine church. The second stage consisted of the addition of the inner pillars of the south nave. In this stage the bound system was first introduced. In the third phase, the matroneum in the southern nave was built. The fourth stage included the north side of the transept and the choir matroneum. By this stage Gothic influence is very clear.

The interior was destroyed by Swedish soldiers during the Thirty Years War (1618-48) and reconstructed in a late Baroque style in 1749. The Baroque renovation was heavy-handed: the surviving medieval stained glass windows were replaced; all the murals were covered up; the ribs of the vaults and columns of the arcades were painted blue and red; the capstones were gilded; the original high altar was replaced. The colorfully painted exterior was coated in plain white and the central tower was extended by 6.5 meters.

The collegiate chapter of Limburg was dissolved in 1803 during the Napoleonic period, but then raised to the rank of cathedral in 1827 when the bishopric of Limburg was founded. Some renovations in contemporary style followed: the walls were coated white, the windows were redone in blue and orange (the heraldic colors of the Duke of Nassau) and towers were added to the south transept (1865).

Further changes came after Limburg was incorporated into the Kingdom of Prussia in 1866. It was now the Romantic period and the cathedral was accordingly restored to an idealized vision of its original Romanesque appearance. The exterior stonework was stripped of all its plaster and paint, to better conform with the Romantic ideal of a medieval church growing out of the rock. The Baroque interior was stripped away and the wall paintings were uncovered and repainted.

Further renovations came in 1934-35, enlightened by better knowledge of the original art and architecture. Art Nouveau stained glass windows were also added. A major restoration in 1965-90 included replastering and painting the exterior, both to restore it to its original appearance and to protect the stonework, which was rapidly deteriorating while exposed to the elements.

The interior is covered in medieval frescoes dating from 1220 to 1235. They are magnificent and important survivals, but time has not been terribly kind to them - they were whitewashed over in the Baroque period (1749) and uncovered and repainted with a heavy hand in the Romantic period (1870s) before finally being restored more sensitively in the 1980s.