St. Catherine's Priory was an important early Dominican friary. The buildings still stand, although there is no monastic community there; known as Ribe Kloster, it is Denmark's most complete extant monastic building complex.
The Dominican priory in Ribe, dedicated to Saint Catherine of Siena, was founded in 1228 by Dominican friars on property given to them by Tuve, Bishop of Ribe, only the second such foundation in Denmark. The church, dedicated to Saint Catherine, was built inRomanesque style with a simple nave and chancel of brick. They also built an attached conventual building.
By 1246 the priory was substantial enough for the provincial meeting of the order to be held there. As Ribe became Denmark's largest and most prosperous town, the priory was reconstructed and expanded in the early 14th century with a larger towerless church and a quadrangular set of buildings providing the friars with privacy from the rest of the community. The new construction was in the Gothic style. A large cellar was built beneath the south range. In the late 14th century the priory was sacked along with rest of Ribe: a papal letter enjoined the community and monks to reconstruct it.
Construction continued through the 15th century as the church was expanded to three aisles and the ranges lengthened to their present size. Then fire ravaged part of the buildings and reconstruction was encouraged by the pope himself. Christian I gave a substantial amount of money to the priory in 1480. A covered cloister was built, and several outbuildings were constructed nearby.
By the late 1520s many Danes wanted an end to the many tithes, fees, rents, forced work, and endless requests for food, clothing, and money by the Catholic Church. Their anger was first vented on what they nicknamed the 'beggar monks' (Danish: tiggermunke), the Franciscan and Dominican friars. In Ribe the Franciscans were ejected first, then the Dominicans were expelled from the priory; some become laymen and remained in Denmark, while others left the country for Dominican houses in central Europe.
Denmark became a Lutheran state in 1536 in the Reformation. All religious houses and their income properties reverted to the crown. The priory church was converted for use as Ribe's second parish church, which it remains, still called St. Catherine's. The other monastic and religious communities in Ribe were all closed.
The Dominican priory was converted for use as the city hospital in 1543 by order of Christian III for the care of the sick, poor and weak, and remained so for many years. In about 1600 part of the former conventual buildings was turned into the cathedral school. In the 18th century the eastern range began to fall down and was demolished. Part of the hospital was used as a lunatic asylum until 1860.
By 1825 the buildings were in need of serious repair and an extensive restoration was conducted to preserve them. In 1865 the entire hospital was converted into apartments for the elderly poor. In 1918 the entire complex was restored once again to what architects believed was the original appearance. The church restoration to its Gothic origins was finally complete and a tower added for the first time.References:
Kirkjubøargarður ('Yard of Kirkjubøur', also known as King"s Farm) is one of the oldest still inhabited wooden houses of the world. The farm itself has always been the largest in the Faroe Islands. The old farmhouse dates back to the 11th century. It was the episcopal residence and seminary of the Diocese of the Faroe Islands, from about 1100. Sverre I of Norway (1151–1202), grew up here and went to the priest school. The legend says, that the wood for the block houses came as driftwood from Norway and was accurately bundled and numbered, just for being set up. Note, that there is no forest in the Faroes and wood is a very valuable material. Many such wood legends are thus to be found in Faroese history.
The oldest part is a so-called roykstova (reek parlour, or smoke room). Perhaps it was moved one day, because it does not fit to its foundation. Another ancient room is the loftstovan (loft room). It is supposed that Bishop Erlendur wrote the 'Sheep Letter' here in 1298. This is the earliest document of the Faroes we know today. It is the statute concerning sheep breeding on the Faroes. Today the room is the farm"s library. The stórastovan (large room) is from a much later date, being built in 1772.
Though the farmhouse is a museum, the 17th generation of the Patursson Family, which has occupied it since 1550, is still living here. Shortly after the Reformation in the Faroe Islands in 1538, all the real estate of the Catholic Church was seized by the King of Denmark. This was about half of the land in the Faroes, and since then called King"s Land (kongsjørð). The largest piece of King"s Land was the farm in Kirkjubøur due to the above-mentioned Episcopal residence. This land is today owned by the Faroese government, and the Paturssons are tenants from generation to generation. It is always the oldest son, who becomes King"s Farmer, and in contrast to the privately owned land, the King"s Land is never divided between the sons.
The farm holds sheep, cattle and some horses. It is possible to get a coffee here and buy fresh mutton and beef directly from the farmer. In the winter season there is also hare hunting for the locals. Groups can rent the roykstovan for festivities and will be served original Faroese cuisine.
Other famous buildings directly by the farmhouse are the Magnus Cathedral and the Saint Olav"s Church, which also date back to the mediaeval period. All three together represent the Faroe Island"s most interesting historical site.