Vrejlev Priory was founded as a daughter house by canons from Børglum Abbey about 1165. It was small and built out of granite blocks. After a catastrophic fire in 1200 which destroyed the entire premises, it was decided to rebuild. 12 residential cells were built into the new north range for the Premonstratensian nuns who were to live in the rebuilt priory. Another range contained the refectory and cellars, and a third range housed lay sisters, usually unmarried young women or widows whose families paid for the privilege of living alongside the nuns. A cloister completed the four-sided complex.
After the fire in 1200, the church was expanded into a three aisled Romanesque structure built of less expensive brick. It was remodelled in 1400 to form a church with two aisles in the Gothic style by removing the outside nave, leaving the church asymmetrical in form. The existing tower was added and the bell hung, which was cast by P.H.P in 1400 and is still rung in the tower today.
The priory and nuns were led by the prioress, while the provost, or prior, who was often a layman and local nobleman, acted for them in secular matters. Some priors lived at Børglum Abbey and were monks, but served the same purpose.
Over time the priory came into possession of several farms and other income properties, though it was by no means wealthy. The rents helped sustain the priory and its works.
Vrejlev Priory fared badly in the 1520s and 1530s during the Danish Reformation. It had been necessary for Vrejlev to be taken under the protection of Bishop Stygge Krumpen in the reign of Frederick I because it could not sustain itself. The priory was occupied by rebels under Skipper Clement in his short-lived rebellion of 1534 and given to Claus IversenDyer. When Christian III's army crushed the revolt later that year, the priory fell to the crown, which appointed a bailiff to secularize it. The priory church became the parish church of Vrejlev. The nuns were permitted to remain for a time, but the cost of maintaining them there was prohibitive, and the former nuns eventually moved or married.
The estate was given to the nobleman Jens Bille in 1575. After 1609 it passed to a succession of noble families who remodelled the conventual buildings for use as a manor houseand estate buildings. The existing buildings, still called Vrejlev Kloster, incorporate two of the conventual ranges which have survived to modern times; the rest has been demolished.
The church served as the local parish church but was also the family church for the local resident nobles, and so was continuously repaired, embellished, and stocked with fine church furniture. There was a raised enclosure to separate the nobles and their guests from the rest of the congregation that was only removed in 1864, when the church became an ordinary parish church for the local community.References:
The Broch of Gurness is an Iron Age broch village. Settlement here began sometime between 500 and 200 BC. At the centre of the settlement is a stone tower or broch, which once probably reached a height of around 10 metres. Its interior is divided into sections by upright slabs. The tower features two skins of drystone walls, with stone-floored galleries in between. These are accessed by steps. Stone ledges suggest that there was once an upper storey with a timber floor. The roof would have been thatched, surrounded by a wall walk linked by stairs to the ground floor. The broch features two hearths and a subterranean stone cistern with steps leading down into it. It is thought to have some religious significance, relating to an Iron Age cult of the underground.
The remains of the central tower are up to 3.6 metres high, and the stone walls are up to 4.1 metres thick. The tower was likely inhabited by the principal family or clan of the area but also served as a last resort for the village in case of an attack.
The broch continued to be inhabited while it began to collapse and the original structures were altered. The cistern was filled in and the interior was repartitioned. The ruin visible today reflects this secondary phase of the broch's use.
The site is surrounded by three ditches cut out of the rock with stone ramparts, encircling an area of around 45 metres diameter. The remains of numerous small stone dwellings with small yards and sheds can be found between the inner ditch and the tower. These were built after the tower, but were a part of the settlement's initial conception. A 'main street' connects the outer entrance to the broch. The settlement is the best-preserved of all broch villages.
Pieces of a Roman amphora dating to before 60 AD were found here, lending weight to the record that a 'King of Orkney' submitted to Emperor Claudius at Colchester in 43 AD.
At some point after 100 AD the broch was abandoned and the ditches filled in. It is thought that settlement at the broch continued into the 5th century AD, the period known as Pictish times. By that time the broch was not used anymore and some of its stones were reused to build smaller dwellings on top of the earlier buildings. Until about the 8th century, the site was just a single farmstead.
In the 9th century, a Norse woman was buried at the site in a stone-lined grave with two bronze brooches and a sickle and knife made from iron. Other finds suggest that Norse men were buried here too.