The Carmelite Priory (Vor Frue Kloster) was a house of Carmelite friars in Helsingør. It is the finest example of a complete monastic complex surviving in Denmark, and one of the best in all of Scandinavia. The priory was established in 1430 for a group of Carmelite friars from Landskrona. It was one of three religious houses founded in Helsingør by King Erik VII as it grew from a small fishing village to a trading port on Øresund, the strait which separates Zealand from Skåne, an important fishing ground and busy shipping corridor between the North Sea and the Baltic. Erik VII, the heir of Margaret I, needed funds and his new toll on shipping was a source of steady income. He wanted to impress outsiders and set about purposefully to develop Helsingør as a gateway city. One of the things he did was to establish in the town not only the priory for the Carmelites but also a Franciscan friary and a Dominican priory.
The Carmelites were a mendicant order (tiggermunk) which means that at least in the beginning they depended on the generosity of local residents for their sustenance. They were sometimes called the 'little white friars'. King Erik invited them into Denmark and established the priory of Our Lady in Helsingør to ensure that they remained. As time passed the priory received many properties scattered all over Zealand which decreased their dependence on others. The priory in Helsingør eventually became the headquarters for the Carmelites in Scandinavia.
Its property was a gift from King Erik, and included several farms for its maintenance. The buildings were of red brick, the most common building material of the day in the region. The three main buildings were built around a central garden and cloister, with the church of St. Mary forming the fourth side to the south. The church was built as a three-aisled basilica, but the central nave was built significantly higher than the others in the Gothic style.
The oldest buildings were destroyed by a fire in 1450, resulting in its current appearance which dates to 1500, when the building of the church was completed. In 1516 a hospital was created here for foreign sailors.
After the dissolution of the priory in 1536 during the Reformation, the Carmelites were turned out, and the premises were abandoned until 1541 when Christian III re-endowed it as the hospital of Helsingør (Vor Frue Hospital or Almindeligt Hospital), with enough income-producing properties to sustain it. It was continued in intermittent use as a hospital for the sick, the elderly, and the poor until 1916, when new premises were made available elsewhere. Also in 1541 a grammar school was established in the west wing, which continued until 1807.References:
The Abbey of Saint-Etienne, also known as Abbaye aux Hommes ('Men"s Abbey'), is a former monastery dedicated to Saint Stephen (Saint Étienne). It is considered, along with the neighbouring Abbaye aux Dames ('Ladies" Abbey'), to be one of the most notable Romanesque buildings in Normandy. Like all the major abbeys in Normandy, it was Benedictine.
Lanfranc, before being an Archbishop of Canterbury, was abbot of Saint-Etienne. Built in Caen stone during the 11th century, the two semi-completed churches stood for many decades in competition. An important feature added to both churches in about 1120 was the ribbed vault, used for the first time in France. The two abbey churches are considered forerunners of the Gothic architecture. The original Romanesque apse was replaced in 1166 by an early Gothic chevet, complete with rosette windows and flying buttresses. Nine towers and spires were added in the 13th century. The interior vaulting shows a similar progression, beginning with early sexpartite vaulting (using circular ribs) in the nave and progressing to quadipartite vaults (using pointed ribs) in the sanctuary.
The two monasteries were finally donated by William the Conqueror and his wife, Matilda of Flanders, as penalty for their marriage against the Pope"s ruling. William was buried here; Matilda was buried in the Abbaye aux Dames. Unfortunately William"s original tombstone of black marble, the same kind as Matilda"s in the Abbaye aux Dames, was destroyed by the Calvinist iconoclasts in the 16th century and his bones scattered.
As a consequence of the Wars of Religion, the high lantern tower in the middle of the church collapsed and was never rebuilt. The Benedictine abbey was suppressed during the French Revolution and the abbey church became a parish church. From 1804 to 1961, the abbey buildings accommodated a prestigious high school, the Lycée Malherbe. During the Normandy Landings in 1944, inhabitants of Caen found refuge in the church; on the rooftop there was a red cross, made with blood on a sheet, to show that it was a hospital (to avoid bombings).