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 Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood is one of the main sights of St. Petersburg. The church was built on the site where Tsar Alexander II was assassinated and was dedicated in his memory. Construction began in 1883 under Alexander III, as a memorial to his father, Alexander II. Work progressed slowly and was finally completed during the reign of Nicholas II in 1907. Funding was provided by the Imperial family with the support of many private donors.
Architecturally, the Cathedral differs from St. Petersburg's other structures. The city's architecture is predominantly Baroque and Neoclassical, but the Savior on Blood harks back to medieval Russian architecture in the spirit of romantic nationalism. It intentionally resembles the 17th-century Yaroslavl churches and the celebrated St. Basil's Cathedral in Moscow.
The Church contains over 7500 square metres of mosaics — according to its restorers, more than any other church in the world. The interior was designed by some of the most celebrated Russian artists of the day — including Viktor Vasnetsov, Mikhail Nesterov and Mikhail Vrubel — but the church's chief architect, Alfred Alexandrovich Parland, was relatively little-known (born in St. Petersburg in 1842 in a Baltic-German Lutheran family). Perhaps not surprisingly, the Church's construction ran well over budget, having been estimated at 3.6 million roubles but ending up costing over 4.6 million. The walls and ceilings inside the Church are completely covered in intricately detailed mosaics — the main pictures being biblical scenes or figures — but with very fine patterned borders setting off each picture.
In the aftermath of the Russian Revolution, the church was ransacked and looted, badly damaging its interior. The Soviet government closed the church in the early 1930s. During the Second World War when many people were starving due to the Siege of Leningrad by Nazi German military forces, the church was used as a temporary morgue for those who died in combat and from starvation and illness. The church suffered significant damage. After the war, it was used as a warehouse for vegetables, leading to the sardonic name of Saviour on Potatoes.
In July 1970, management of the Church passed to Saint Isaac's Cathedral (then used as a highly profitable museum) and proceeds from the Cathedral were funneled back into restoring the Church. It was reopened in August 1997, after 27 years of restoration, but has not been reconsecrated and does not function as a full-time place of worship; it is a Museum of Mosaics. Even before the Revolution it never functioned as a public place of worship; having been dedicated exclusively to the memory of the assassinated tsar, the only services were panikhidas (memorial services). The Church is now one of the main tourist attractions in St. Petersburg.