Viborg Cathedral is the site of one of Denmark's most important historic churches located in the town of Viborg. The modern building is a 19th century construction based on Lund Cathedral in southern Sweden which bears no resemblance to the medieval cathedral that stood on the site since 1130.
Viborg Cathedral has been the seat of a bishop since 1065. While nothing is known of the first church in Viborg, it can be supposed that it was a small timber church with a short nave and choir. No remains of such a building have been found. But if it follows the pattern of other cathedrals in Denmark, it would be on or near the site of the present structure. A stone cathedral was built on the present site and part of its foundations can still be seen in the crypt of the modern cathedral.
The second cathedral dedicated to St Mary and later called, 'Our Lady Cathedral' (Vor Frue Domkirke) was begun about 1130 on the site of a wooden church which was built in Viking times by Bishop Eskild. Eskild was murdered in front of the altar of St Margaret's church (now Asmild Church) on the orders of Erik Emune who was in rebellion against King Niels in 1133. The men who slaughtered bishop Eskild were never brought to justice. The cathedral was built of Danish granite and sandstone in Romanesque style with half-rounded arches supporting a flat timber ceiling. The church consisted of a long nave, two side aisles, and short, stubby transepts, and a choir with a rounded apse. Two towers flanked the main entrance with tall, slim spires.
The cathedral was completed under Bishop Niels about 1200. He also founded the Hospital of St Michael in Viborg. In time many other ecclesiastical buildings surrounded the cathedral. The cathedral also had a chapel for St Anna and Our Lady Chapel. At some point relics of St Willehad, the Archbishop of Bremen in the 780's were brought to Viborg and placed in St Kjeld's chapel.
In 1501 a fire damaged the western section of the church and destroyed the roof. The repairs were made in red brick, the most common building material of the time. By 1530 the cathedral was in the hands of Lutherans who rejected much of what the cathedral had stood for since Viking times. Despite Viborg's enthusiasm for all things reformed, Viborg maintained some of its Catholic traditions longer than anywhere else in Denmark.
A fire damaged the church again in 1567. 27 June 1726 the city and the church suffered devastating fire damage leaving the bare walls and vaulting standing. The old cathedral remnants were enclosed in a Baroque style building that was poorly constructed by 1770. The towers were capped with short 'coffee pots' according to locals who remembered the high spires before the fire.
The church was closed due to lack of funds, and between 1800 and 1814 was used as a grain silo. In 1859 in preparation for restoring the cathedral, it was decided that the walls were so unstable that the church would need to be dismantled and be rebuilt. The designer, Julius Tholle, wanted to keep as much of the medieval building as was feasible and incorporate it into the new building. In 1863 the process of tearing the church down was completed and the cornerstone for the new cathedral was laid. Tholle died in 1871 and his plan was scrapped. The older sections which were deemed too unsalvageable were torn down.
Viborg Cathedral was rebuilt in brick, and then a granite facade attached to achieve the look of a granite church for significantly less money. The building was closely patterned after the ancient Romanesque cathedral at Lund in southern Sweden. This was a controversial decision because the appearance of the cathedral was nothing like the former building. The church was completed and consecrated in 1876. As a result, the present cathedral is a 19th century version of what the builders thought a Romanesque cathedral should look like.
Because the entire contents of the church were lost in the 1726 fire, all the contents to be seen in the church were either taken from other churches or created by artists and craftsmen after 1876 (like seven branch candelabra on the altar, which is made in Lubeck in 1494). Joachim Skovgaard painted frescoes in the church as a reminder of the medieval paintings which were part of the decoration of the ancient cathedral between 1900 and 1913.References:
The Abbey of Saint-Etienne, also known as Abbaye aux Hommes ('Men"s Abbey'), is a former monastery dedicated to Saint Stephen (Saint Étienne). It is considered, along with the neighbouring Abbaye aux Dames ('Ladies" Abbey'), to be one of the most notable Romanesque buildings in Normandy. Like all the major abbeys in Normandy, it was Benedictine.
Lanfranc, before being an Archbishop of Canterbury, was abbot of Saint-Etienne. Built in Caen stone during the 11th century, the two semi-completed churches stood for many decades in competition. An important feature added to both churches in about 1120 was the ribbed vault, used for the first time in France. The two abbey churches are considered forerunners of the Gothic architecture. The original Romanesque apse was replaced in 1166 by an early Gothic chevet, complete with rosette windows and flying buttresses. Nine towers and spires were added in the 13th century. The interior vaulting shows a similar progression, beginning with early sexpartite vaulting (using circular ribs) in the nave and progressing to quadipartite vaults (using pointed ribs) in the sanctuary.
The two monasteries were finally donated by William the Conqueror and his wife, Matilda of Flanders, as penalty for their marriage against the Pope"s ruling. William was buried here; Matilda was buried in the Abbaye aux Dames. Unfortunately William"s original tombstone of black marble, the same kind as Matilda"s in the Abbaye aux Dames, was destroyed by the Calvinist iconoclasts in the 16th century and his bones scattered.
As a consequence of the Wars of Religion, the high lantern tower in the middle of the church collapsed and was never rebuilt. The Benedictine abbey was suppressed during the French Revolution and the abbey church became a parish church. From 1804 to 1961, the abbey buildings accommodated a prestigious high school, the Lycée Malherbe. During the Normandy Landings in 1944, inhabitants of Caen found refuge in the church; on the rooftop there was a red cross, made with blood on a sheet, to show that it was a hospital (to avoid bombings).