Esrum Abbey, also Esrom Abbey was the second Cistercian monastery founded in Denmark. It began as a Benedictine foundation, perhaps in about 1140, and was built near a pre-Christian religious site, later called Esrum Spring, where a small wooden stave chapel may have existed before the abbey was established. The foundation was taken over by the Cistercians in 1151 on the authority of Archbishop Eskil of Lund, and was counted as a daughter house of Clairvaux. Esrum in its turn became in the course of time the mother house of a number of other important Cistercian foundations in Denmark. Monks from Esrum also founded Dargun Abbey in Mecklenburg in 1172, but abandoned it after hostile military action in 1198, and the later history of Dargun rests on its re-foundation in 1208 from Doberan Abbey. The former community from Dargun went on however to found Eldena Abbey.
Esrum Abbey burned down in 1194 and again in 1204, resulting in the construction of a new church - a three-aisled basilica with transepts and a rectangular choir - and monastery built out of red brick, the most common building material of the time in the region.
In 1355 the Queen, Helvig of Schleswig, consort of King Valdemar IV of Denmark (Valdemar Atterdag), became a lay sister at Esrum after being supplanted by King Valdemar's mistress, Tove. The queen was buried in the abbey church, which brought royal gifts of property for the abbey. Her daughter, Margaret I of Denmark, continued Esrum's royal patronage, which attracted increased benefactions from other noble families on Zealand.
A transcript of a collection of papers of the abbey between 1374 and 1497, consisting mostly of letters, has been preserved in Det Kongelige Bibliotek as the 'Codex Esromensis' (Danish: Esrum Klosters Brevbog).
Denmark became officially Lutheran in 1536 with the adoption of the Lutheran Ordinances by the king and State Council, when Esrum became a crown estate. It was allowed to continue to function as a monastery until 1559, when the remaining 11 monks and the abbot were despatched to Sorø Abbey. The buildings at Esrum were then largely dismantled for building materials, apparently for use at Kronborg Castle to which the abbey estate was given.
In the 17th century the remaining structures were converted into a hunting lodge for the king and his courtiers, and the site was also used as a stud farm until 1717, after which it became a barracks for dragoons until 1746. From then on the buildings were used for a variety of military and civil administrative offices, becoming the property of the local government administration of Frederiksborg Amt.
During World War II the site was temporarily taken over as secure storage for the Danish National Archives, and immediately after the war was used for the accommodation ofLatvian refugees.
The site and structures were thoroughly restored in 1996. The surviving buildings - the south wing of the conventual buildings and a watermill - have received protected status as a national historic monument and are now used as a museum and a school for the study of nature and the environment. A number of other leisure facilities and activities are also provided, including medieval re-enactments.
The cheese known as Esrum or Esrom is named after this monastery.References:
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