Roskilde Cathedral is the earliest major ecclesiastical building in brick in northern Europe and had a profound influence on the spread of brick for this purpose over the whole region. Both in its form and in its setting it is an outstanding example of a north European cathedral complex, especially noteworthy for the successive architectural styles used in the ancillary chapels and porches added during the centuries during which it has served as the mausoleum of the Danish royal family.
The first religious structure on the site was a wooden church built around 980 by King Harald Bluetooth. This was replaced successively by two travertine structures, built in 1030 and 1080 respectively. In the mid-12th century brick-making was introduced into Denmark by craftsmen from Lombardy, and Bishop Absalom decided around 1170 to rebuild his cathedral in this new material; his work was continued after his death in 1191 by his successor, Bishop Peder Suneson. The original structure was Romanesque; however, when only the eastern half had been built the plan was changed, under the influence of Gothic. The transept was located further back and the towers planned for the choir were removed to the west end. Work was virtually complete by around 1275, apart from the north tower, finished at the end of the 14th century.
Roskilde Cathedral is an aisled basilica in Gothic style with a semi-circular chancel gallery. The structure is essentially in brick, with occasional use of small boulders in the interior. Externally the walls stand on a plinth of granite ashlars two courses high; in the interior there is a hollow chamfered plinth of the same material. Traces have been found of the use of squared oak beams for reinforcement, further evidence of the early date of the structure, at a period when the builders were still uncertain about the properties of the new material, brick. The interior walls were originally bare, apart from the vaulting and the soffits of the arches, which were plastered. Most of the original rich wall paintings have disappeared.
Oluf Mortensen's Porch, named after the mid-15th-century bishop who commissioned it, is one of the finest examples of Danish brick Gothic architecture. Stylistically it is linked with the Gothic brick architecture of northern Germany. It is noteworthy for its fine roof gable and for the asymmetrical but finely balanced form of the lower part of the gable facade. The bricks used for the walling are remarkable for their richness of shading, which demonstrates excellent control of the brick-making process.
In the centuries that followed, chapels, porches, and other structures were built around the cathedral, first by bishops and nobles and later by the royal family, which partly hid the original structure. These included the chapter-house, gradually extended from the early 13th century to the end of the 15th century, the chapels of St Andrew (1387) and St Bridget (later 15th century). Royal additions included the Chapel of the Magi (Christian I: 1460), the Chapel of Christian IV (early 17th century, replacing two earlier chapels), and the Chapel of Frederik V (1772, in neoclassical style). Two royal chapels were built in the present century: the Chapel of Christian IX (1924) and the detached New Royal Ground (1985).
The two-storeyed Chapel of the Magi, completed around 1463, was originally built from glazed brick, but little remains of the glazing. The second storey, known as the Knights' Hall, contains some noteworthy carved stone. The main feature of the Chapel is, however, its rich late medieval mural decoration, which entirely covers the walls and vaults. Christian IV's Chapel, designed as a sepulchral chapel for the king, was the first post-medieval addition to the cathedral. It is constructed in the Dutch Renaissance Style. The steep ribbed vault is the largest in Denmark.
Frederik V's Chapel has a cruciform central chamber connected by a transverse building to the south aisle of the cathedral. Many of the medieval furnishings of the cathedral disappeared at the Reformation, and more were sold at a notorious auction in 1806. Of what remains the outstanding piece is the reredos, a masterpiece of Dutch religious art dating from around 1560. It is a triptych, probably from Antwerp, and bears scenes from the life of Christ. The canons' stalls of 1420 are of considerable importance because of the unique series of pictures on them.References:
The Externsteine (Extern stones) is a distinctive sandstone rock formation located in the Teutoburg Forest, near the town of Horn-Bad Meinberg. The formation is a tor consisting of several tall, narrow columns of rock which rise abruptly from the surrounding wooded hills. Archaeological excavations have yielded some Upper Paleolithic stone tools dating to about 10,700 BC from 9,600 BC.
In a popular tradition going back to an idea proposed to Hermann Hamelmann in 1564, the Externsteine are identified as a sacred site of the pagan Saxons, and the location of the Irminsul (sacral pillar-like object in German paganism) idol reportedly destroyed by Charlemagne; there is however no archaeological evidence that would confirm the site's use during the relevant period.
The stones were used as the site of a hermitage in the Middle Ages, and by at least the high medieval period were the site of a Christian chapel. The Externsteine relief is a medieval depiction of the Descent from the Cross. It remains controversial whether the site was already used for Christian worship in the 8th to early 10th centuries.
The Externsteine gained prominence when Völkisch and nationalistic scholars took an interest in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This interest peaked under the Nazi regime, when the Externsteine became a focus of nazi propaganda. Today, they remain a popular tourist destination and also continue to attract Neo-Pagans and Neo-Nazis.