Aarhus Cathedral

Aarhus, Denmark

The building of Århus Cathedral was started in the last decades of the 12th Century by Peter Vognsen, a member of famous aristocratic family Hviderne. He was ordained as a Bishop in 1191. The Cathedral - a magnificent Romanesque basilica - was a gigantic project and not finished until about 1350. Red bricks were used, a kind of material not otherwise used in Denmark before approx. 1160. The outer walls of this Cathedral and the beautiful chapels along the eastern wall of the transept are the only surviving Romanesque elements today.

The Cathedral, as it otherwise stands today, is the result of radical rebuilding in the Gothic style, undertaken from 1449 till about 1500, transforming the heavy and sombre building into a Gothic cathedral, inspired by the great contemporary churches in the Hanseatic towns around the Baltic Sea. Considerable height completed with cross- and star vaulting was added to the nave as well as to the aisles and the transept. The culmination however was the altogether reconstructed and enlarged chancel, now with three naves of the same height, an ambulatory and 13 high, pointed windows throwing cascades of light into this bright space.

With a length of 93 metres Århus Cathedral is the longest church in Denmark, and it seats approx. 1200 people. From the beginning it was dedicated to St Clement, the patron saint of sailors.

Århus Cathedral has largest total area of walls and arches covered by frescoes in Denmark. The paintings of St. Christopher and St. Clement are the tallest in the country. Other frescoes include St George and the Dragon, a three-tier picture representing Purgatory, The Day of Judgment, St Michael the Weigher of Souls, and numerous others. The frescoes were all made between 1470 and 1520, except the one surrounding the socalled leprosy window in the northwest corner of the Cathedral. It was painted in about 1300, and it is the oldest piece of art in the cathedral, the only one left from the Romanesque church.

The cathedral has a wonderful altarpiece carved by the famous Lübeck sculptor and painter Bernt Notke. It was dedicated on Easter Sunday 1479 and is one of Denmark's great treasures. The altarpiece is unusual in that it has movable sections, so different scenes may be viewed during the liturgical calendar. The pulpit was carved in oak by sculptor Michael von Groningen and dedicated in 1588. The baptismal font was created in copper by the famous bell maker, Peter Hansen of Flensborg, in 1481.

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