The first historical reference of the Abbey Church in Nykøbing is to St. Nicholas Chapel where Eric of Pomerania founded a Greyfriars monastery in honour of Our Lady, St Michael and St Francis. The church must have been completed by 1482 when the annual Franciscan chapter meeting was held in Nykøbing to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the birth of Francis of Assisi with representatives of Franciscan communities in the Nordic countries. In 1532, when the monks had left the abbey, the church was transferred to the citizens of Nykøbing as theparish church. In the 16th and 17th centuries, the church had close connections with Nykøbing Castle (now demolished) which became the residence of Denmark's dowager queens.
The church consists of a nave with a three-sided east gable, a tower on the north side and a cloister (now part of an aisle inside the church), along the south side, all built in red brick in the Late Gothic style. Apart from the church, only the west wing and a small part of the north wing of the abbey have been preserved. The west wing was built over several periods. The part next to the church is the oldest, possibly the first part of the abbey to be built, and certainly older than the church. This explains why the adjacent church windows are of different sizes and more profiled than those in the rest of the church. The church's long eastern section was constructed over two periods. From its style, which is similar to that of the east gable, it can be seen that the west gable was constructed at a later stage. The tower was built over three periods, the cloister over four periods. The style of architecture indicates all the basic construction work was completed by about 1500. The tower was heightened in 1766 and topped with today's onion spire. There are three bells from the 1470s, 1493 and 1634. The carillon of 26 bells from 1969 comes from Petit & Fritsen in the Netherlands.
The lower level of today's aisle was connected to the church by a doorway but later three round arches were completed. They were perfected during the restoration work in 1874 when the gallery was given its pointed twin openings. In 1966, the pulpit was moved closer to the chancel.
The elaborate altarpiece from 1616 is in the Renaissance style with paintings from Antonius Clement's workshop in Odense depicting theCrucifixion in the central panel flanked by Isaac's Sacrifice and the Snake in the Desert. The pulpit (1640) in the Auricular style is the work ofJørgen Ringnis who crafted several carved pulpits for Falster churches. Features include Moses with the Tablets of Law, and shell-framed niches with the four Evangelists. The artistic Mecklenburg Ancestral Table on which Antonius Clement started to work in 1622, completing it in 1627, shows 63 of Queen Sophie's ancestors from five generations with small paintings of each. The octagonal bronze font (1648) is designed by Antony Wisse from Lübeck. The crucifix on the north wall is from 1646.
Christopher Herfordt of Copenhagen received permission in 1665 to erect a burial compound on the south side of the church. Later known as Herfordt's Chapel, the brick structure is reported to have been covered with a half-roof and enclosed with wrought-iron railings. The sacristy, first mentioned in 1720, was a small half-timbered building but was removed in 1874 during restoration work. In 1847, after a newly designed cemetery was opened elsewhere, the churchyard simply became an annex. It was later transformed into the area called Rosenhaven (The Rose Garden) consisting of a flower garden and a car park. At its southern end there is a tombstone commemorating the statesman and bishop Ditlev Gothard Monrad (1811–1877) and his wife. It came from another cemetery which was closed in favour of a railway bridge. In 1967, the iron gate which stood at the western end of the churchyard was moved to the south entrance near the church's eastern wall. Crafted by the ironsmith T. C. Christoffersen in 1901, the gate was designed by the architect Henrik Christopher Glahn.References:
From 1239, Raynaud, the Bishop of Quimper, decided on the building of a new chancel destined to replace that of the Romanesque era. He therefore started, in the far west, the construction of a great Gothic cathedral which would inspire cathedral reconstructions in the Ile de France and would in turn become a place of experimentation from where would later appear ideas adopted by the whole of lower Brittany. The date of 1239 marks the Bishop’s decision and does not imply an immediate start to construction. Observation of the pillar profiles, their bases, the canopies, the fitting of the ribbed vaults of the ambulatory or the alignment of the bays leads us to believe, however, that the construction was spread out over time.
The four circular pillars mark the start of the building site, but the four following adopt a lozenge-shaped layout which could indicate a change of project manager. The clumsiness of the vaulted archways of the north ambulatory, the start of the ribbed vaults at the height of the south ambulatory or the choice of the vaults descending in spoke-form from the semi-circle which allows the connection of the axis chapel to the choir – despite the manifest problems of alignment – conveys the hesitancy and diverse influences in the first phase of works which spread out until the start of the 14th century.
At the same time as this facade was built (to which were added the north and south gates) the building of the nave started in the east and would finish by 1460. The nave is made up of six bays with one at the level of the facade towers and flanked by double aisles – one wide and one narrow (split into side chapels) – in an extension of the choir arrangements.
The choir presents four right-hand bays with ambulatory and side chapels. It is extended towards the east of 3-sided chevet which opens onto a semi-circle composed of five chapels and an apsidal chapel of two bays and a flat chevet consecrated to Our Lady.
The three-level elevation with arches, triforium and galleries seems more uniform and expresses anglo-Norman influence in the thickness of the walls (Norman passageway at the gallery level) or the decorative style (heavy mouldings, decorative frieze under the triforium). This building site would have to have been overseen in one shot. Undoubtedly interrupted by the war of Succession (1341-1364) it draws to a close with the building of the lierne vaults (1410) and the fitting of stained-glass windows. Bishop Bertrand de Rosmadec and Duke Jean V, whose coat of arms would decorate these vaults, finished the chancel before starting on the building of the facade and the nave.
Isolated from its environment in the 19th century, the cathedral was – on the contrary – originally very linked to its surroundings. Its site and the orientation of the facade determined traffic flow in the town. Its positioning close to the south walls resulted in particuliarities such as the transfer of the side gates on to the north and south facades of the towers: the southern portal of Saint Catherine served the bishop’s gate and the hospital located on the left bank (the current Préfecture) and the north gate was the baptismal porch – a true parish porch with its benches and alcoves for the Apostles’ statues turned towards the town, completed by an ossuary (1514).
The west porch finds its natural place between the two towers. The entire aesthetic of these three gates springs from the Flamboyant era: trefoil, curly kale, finials, large gables which cut into the mouldings and balustrades. Pinnacles and recesses embellish the buttresses whilst an entire bestiary appears: monsters, dogs, mysterious figures, gargoyles, and with them a whole imaginary world promoting a religious and political programme. Even though most of the saints statues have disappeared an armorial survives which makes the doors of the cathedral one of the most beautiful heraldic pages imaginable: ducal ermine, the Montfort lion, Duchess Jeanne of France’s coat of arms side by side with the arms of the Cornouaille barons with their helmets and crests. One can imagine the impact of this sculpted decor with the colour and gilding which originally completed it.
At the start of the 16th century the construction of the spires was being prepared when building was interrupted, undoubtedly for financial reasons. Small conical roofs were therefore placed on top of the towers. The following centuries were essentially devoted to putting furnishings in place (funeral monuments, altars, statues, organs, pulpit). Note the fire which destroyed the spire of the transept cross in 1620 as well as the ransacking of the cathedral in 1793 when nearly all the furnishings disappeared in a « bonfire of the saints ».
The 19th century would therefore inherit an almost finished but mutilated building and would devote itself to its renovation according to the tastes and theories of the day.