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:

Comments

Your name

Website (optional)



Details

Founded: 1430
Category: Religious sites in Denmark
Historical period: Kalmar Union (Denmark)

More Information

en.wikipedia.org

Rating

4.5/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Beau Yeung (7 months ago)
Sadly was closed at 2pm the day we came..
Marcus Forelius (7 months ago)
Cool little side trip just a for the walk to the castle this gorgeous church was empty and quiet when I went. One could not help but be stirred by the stone work on the floor of the church, the pulpit, the icon work and organ all were top notch compared to other churches I saw in Denmark. Go and it will be worth it I promise.
Agnese Piovesan (8 months ago)
Very beautiful building with a super interesting story. We found a lovely and expert woman with the key of every room that showed us around for almost one hour, telling us interesting anecdotes over the monastery.
Mariia Nesterova (13 months ago)
It closes early but very nice to see from the outside.
Cecilie Urup (15 months ago)
Beautiful cozy and charming church - really get the sense of a building full of soul :)
Powered by Google

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Porta Nigra

The Porta Nigra (Latin for black gate) is the largest Roman city gate north of the Alps. It is designated as part of the Roman Monuments, Cathedral of St. Peter and Church of Our Lady in Trier UNESCO World Heritage Site. The name Porta Nigra originated in the Middle Ages due to the darkened colour of its stone; the original Roman name has not been preserved. Locals commonly refer to the Porta Nigra simply as Porta.

The Porta Nigra was built in grey sandstone between 186 and 200 AD. The original gate consisted of two four-storied towers, projecting as near semicircles on the outer side. A narrow courtyard separated the two gate openings on either side. For unknown reasons, however, the construction of the gate remained unfinished. For example, the stones at the northern (outer) side of the gate were never abraded, and the protruding stones would have made it impossible to install movable gates. Nonetheless, the gate was used for several centuries until the end of the Roman era in Trier.

In Roman times, the Porta Nigra was part of a system of four city gates, one of which stood at each side of the roughly rectangular Roman city. The Porta Nigra guarded the northern entry to the Roman city, while the Porta Alba (White Gate) was built in the east, the Porta Media (Middle Gate) in the south, and the Porta Inclyta (Famous Gate) in the west, next to the Roman bridge across the Moselle. The gates stood at the ends of the two main streets of the Roman Trier, one of which led north-south and the other east-west. Of these gates, only the Porta Nigra still exists today.

In the early Middle Ages the Roman city gates were no longer used for their original function and their stones were taken and reused for other buildings. Also iron and lead braces were broken out of the walls of the Porta Nigra for reuse. Traces of this destruction are still clearly visible on the north side of the gate.

After 1028, the Greek monk Simeon lived as a hermit in the ruins of the Porta Nigra. After his death (1035) and sanctification, the Simeonstift monastery was built next to the Porta Nigra to honor him. Saving it from further destruction, the Porta Nigra was transformed into a church: The inner court of the gate was roofed and intermediate ceilings were inserted. The two middle storeys of the former gate were converted into church naves: the upper storey being for the monks and the lower storey for the general public. The ground floor with the large gates was sealed, and a large outside staircase was constructed alongside the south side (the town side) of the gate, up to the lower storey of the church. A small staircase led further up to the upper storey. The church rooms were accessible through former windows of the western tower of the Porta Nigra that were enlarged to become entrance doors (still visible today). The top floor of the western tower was used as church tower, the eastern tower was leveled, and an apse added at its east side. An additional gate - the much smaller Simeon Gate - was built adjacent to the East side of the Porta Nigra and served as a city gate in medieval times.

In 1802 Napoleon Bonaparte dissolved the church in the Porta Nigra and the monastery beside it, along with the vast majority of Trier"s numerous churches and monasteries. On his visit to Trier in 1804, Napoleon ordered that the Porta Nigra be converted back to its Roman form. Only the apse was kept; but the eastern tower was not rebuilt to its original height. Local legend has it that Napoleon originally wanted to completely tear down the church, but locals convinced him that the church had actually been a Gaulish festival hall before being turned into a church. Another version of the story is that they told him about its Roman origins, persuading him to convert the gate back to its original form.

In 1986 the Porta Nigra was designated a World Heritage Site, along with other Roman monuments in Trier and its surroundings. The modern appearance of the Porta Nigra goes back almost unchanged to the reconstruction ordered by Napoleon. At the south side of the Porta Nigra, remains of Roman columns line the last 100 m of the street leading to the gate. Positioned where they had stood in Roman times, they give a slight impression of the aspect of the original Roman street that was lined with colonnades. The Porta Nigra, including the upper floors, is open to visitors.