Mariager Abbey was founded in 1430 on a hill overlooking the ferry across Mariager Fjord by the Bridgettines, the last monastic order to reach Denmark before the Reformation, on land acquired in the late 1420s from the dissolved Randers Abbey. Tradition has it that the abbey was founded by several noble families in Eastern Jutland. Sources disagree on whether the abbey was founded from Maribo Abbey or from the Bridgettine mother house, Vadstena Abbey in Sweden.
Papal permission for a double abbey was granted in 1446. Funds were short however and the abbey was still uncompleted in 1468 when King Christian I wrote to the pope asking for help in completing it. Christian I contributed himself by giving the Order the right of harbourage over the landing place next to Hobro Vig in 1449. Subsequent kings of Denmark -Hans, Christian I and Frederick I - all provided additional income through grants of rent rights over the next few decades. Further income came from noble families who followed the royal lead by giving farms and income properties to the abbey. At its high point the abbey owned farms, businesses, parts of towns and income from churches.
The abbey church rapidly became a pilgrimage site where people could come to receive absolution for their sins. It has been suggested that the source of this fame was because of relics deposited for the veneration of the faithful, perhaps something connected to Saint Bridget but to date no specific evidence of this has been located. The name 'Mariager' ('Maria's Field') was first used in 1446 when the pope officially recognized the establishment of the abbey. Nobles, merchants, and wealthy farmers began buying burial sites or building chapels, so they could be buried on the grounds. The monastery received properties and donations from people for services. The town of Mariager grew up around the monastery, which was influential in the region due to the many farms it owned.
The Gothic abbey church was completed about 1480 and was one of the largest churches in Denmark. It was 75 m long, 32 m wide and 25m high in the nave. The two side aisles were 15 m high. It was unusual because it had two choirs, the larger on the west for the nuns, and a smaller on the east for the monks.
The Bridgettines were the last monastic order to appear in Denmark. Consequently, Mariager Abbey existed for just over a hundred years before the majority of Danes rejected the institutions and customs of their long Catholic past. During the Reformation Mariager Abbey became crown property, in 1536, but was allowed to continue to operate until 1588, part of the time as a home for unmarried noble women. The church became a Lutheran parish church. The estates were sold or given away by the crown and the buildings fell into disrepair.
In 1721-1722 and 1724 most of the dilapidated abbey buildings were demolished and the materials used for repairing homes and farm buildings. The north range was converted into a residence for the parish bailiff and then restored in the 1891. The influence of the town of Mariager was greatly reduced, and at one time only 400 people lived there.
In 1788 the former abbey church was partially demolished and the current building was constructed around the west choir. The resulting church was about one quarter of the size of the medieval church. The current church serves as a partial reminder of the magnificent buildings that once stood on the hill above the fjord.References:
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.