Odense Cathedral

Odense, Denmark

The present Odense Cathedral dates primarily from the 13th century, but it was built on the foundations of an earlier travertine church that was built in 1095. During the civil war between Eric IV and his brother, Abel, Odense and the cathedral were burned down in 1247. The present church was constructed in several phases to replace the aging and inadequate stone church in about 1300 by Bishop Gisico (1287–1300). The new cathedral was built in Gothic style with its typical pointed arches and high vaulted ceilings. The building material of choice for the time was over-sized red brick which was cheaper and easier to work with than the porous stone available. Portions of the stone cathedral were taken down and the new building expanded around the old. In all it took approximately two hundred years to complete the cathedral, which was finally dedicated on 30 April 1499.

The church is dedicated to St. Knud, aka King Canute IV. In 1086, Canute was murdered by Jutish peasants angry at his heavy taxation. He was slain along with his brother Benedict and 17 members of his entourage while kneeling at the altar of the nearby St. Alban's Church, where they had taken refuge. The remains of the church have been excavated in the city park. When the first church of St. Canute was completed, a three day fast was proclaimed for the entire kingdom and the remains of Canute and Benedict were moved to the cathedral. It was believed that if the king was truly a saint that the shroud should be set on fire and the body would not be harmed. The shroud of Saint Canute was set alight, but the fire indeed left no mark upon the body of the king.

Odense Cathedral is the purest example of Gothic architecture in Denmark. Inside, it boasts a splendid 16th-century altarpiece by Claus Berg. Other highlights of the cathedral are definitely the reliquaries containing the skeletons of King St. Knud and his brother Benedikt. The skeleton believed to be that of Knud has undergone forensic investigation and it bears evidence of a club swing from behind - supporting the tradition that Canute was murdered while kneeling at prayer.



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Founded: c. 1300
Category: Religious sites in Denmark
Historical period: The First Kingdom (Denmark)

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User Reviews

Karina Flores (7 months ago)
This Cathedral is an enchanting place which I consider sacred as the meaning for espiritual people connected to God. It is an architectural master piece, considered the finest Gotic building in Denmark, consisting of a high nave with its bell tower, bricks built. The altarpiece has a magnificent carved work representing the pasion of Jesus Christ, I was lucky to see the back of it which has paintings of Adam and Eve and of the Holy Spirit among others (this area is not open to the public), and even you might listen to the pipe organ while visiting it, aditionally it brings the memory of Hans Christian Andersen as He was baptized in this place, you can find it at the right handside once getting in. The Entrance is free with also a smart gate in its facade, it is not usualy crowded!
Ruqaya Aljabery (8 months ago)
I visited it for the first time last week and there was a “concert” by Aarhus Academy. Friendly people.
Leah Winkler (9 months ago)
It is an interesting church, you can even see the skeletons in the crypts.
Coralie Pattenden (12 months ago)
Such a beautiful cathedral. Well worth a visit if you are ever in Odense.
WS (12 months ago)
We visited the cathedral located Odense while en route to Renders on the 9th May 2023 (Tuesday). The cathedral was built in 11th century and named after Dannish King Canute. It's interesting to know about King Canute and his adventure. Do make a visit while you are in Odense, which is more enriching apart visitng the shopping outlets.
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