Elmelunde Church

Stege, Denmark

Elmelunde Church is famous for its frescos. It stands high above the surroundings and the impressive whitewashed building can be seen from miles around and has been used as a landmark by sailors in the Baltic Sea. Elmelunde is the oldest church on the island of Møn, apparently constructed on a site where a wooden church once stood. The flat mound, to the north of the church, is even older. It is believed to be a heathen burial ground from the bronze age.

The present church dates back to 1085 when parts of the present choir and nave were built in the Romanesque style. Only the triumphal arch and the sidewalls remain from this period. The earliest additions were carried out around the year 1200 when the church was extended towards the west. Work on the tower began around 1300 but was not completed until 1500. The wooden ceiling was replaced by Gothic crossvaulting in 1462.

The church's many well-preserved frescos or kalkmalerier cover the Gothic vaulting of the nave and choir. Like the murals in two of Møn's other churches, Keldby and Fanefjord, they were painted in the Gothic style by the so-called Elmelunde Master, probably towards the end of the 15th century. In the so-called Biblia pauperum style, they present many of the most popular stories from the Old and New Testaments.

The paintings were hidden for centuries as, following the reformation, they were covered with layer after layer of limewash. In 1969, the National Museum of Denmark undertook major restoration work on the wall paintings. The vaults were cleaned, earlier restoration work was corrected and new frescos were revealed. The paintings in the nave and choir were discovered in 1885 and initially restored in 1895. During the most recent restoration work, it was found that the church had earlier been decorated with Romanesque frescos, traces of which could be seen on the walls of the nave and on the triumphal arch. However, until now, it has not been possible to restore them.

The most comprehensive wallpainting work was in fact carried out by the Elmelunde Master presenting a variety of scenes from the story of theCreation and the New Testament but also with illustrations of everyday activities such as ploughing and hunting. Between the paintings, margins with frills depicting flowers, plants and other ornaments can be seen. The figures all have sleepy faces, a characteristic of the Elmelund Master. Colours include black, ochre, caput mortuum, and cinnabar which has now faded to verdigris.

The richly carved altar, 1646, was a gift from King Christian IV´s daughter, Leonora Christina, and her husband Corfitz Ulfeldt. The central frame depicts the institution of the Holy Communion. The sides present the evangelists Mark and John. The pulpit, also a present from the Ulfeldts, is borne by the apostle Peter and is from the year 1649. Large representations of the four evangelists fill the larger frames while the corner frames house their symbols.

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Details

Founded: 1085
Category: Religious sites in Denmark
Historical period: The First Kingdom (Denmark)

Rating

4.5/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Anne Stackebrandt (5 months ago)
Sehenswerte Kirche!
Tommy Hansson (5 months ago)
Historiesk Kirke med masser af kalkmalerier . Og gamle sømærke. Meget smukt
Darkmatter Yt (7 months ago)
Its Are cool place
Maarten Paraat (9 months ago)
Mooie kerk, rustig met heel oude muurschilderingen. Zeer de moeite waard.
Michael Sorms (9 months ago)
Schöne sehenswerte Kirche mit Kalkmalereien (vom so genannten Elmelund-Meister, der auch in der Keldby-Kirche und der Fanefjordkirche wirkte) und einem Holzaltar von 1637. Es ist eine der ältesten Steinkirchen Dänemarks und die älteste auf der Insel Møn. Auf dem gepflegten Friedhof befindet sich als Besonderheit noch ein Grabhügel aus der Bronzezeit.
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In 910 AD, Count Konrad Kurzbold (cousin of the future King Konrad I) founded a collegiate chapter of 18 canons, who lived according to the rule of Bishop Chrodegang of Metz, on the hilltop site. The original castle chapel was torn down and a three-aisled basilica was built in its place. The foundations of this basilica have been found beneath the present floor.

The construction of current cathedral is dated to 1180-90. The consecration was performed in 1235 by the archbishop of Trier. It seems certain that the cathedral was built in four stages. The first stage encompassed the west facade, the south side aisle, the choir and the transept up to the matroneum. This section forms the Conradine church. The second stage consisted of the addition of the inner pillars of the south nave. In this stage the bound system was first introduced. In the third phase, the matroneum in the southern nave was built. The fourth stage included the north side of the transept and the choir matroneum. By this stage Gothic influence is very clear.

The interior was destroyed by Swedish soldiers during the Thirty Years War (1618-48) and reconstructed in a late Baroque style in 1749. The Baroque renovation was heavy-handed: the surviving medieval stained glass windows were replaced; all the murals were covered up; the ribs of the vaults and columns of the arcades were painted blue and red; the capstones were gilded; the original high altar was replaced. The colorfully painted exterior was coated in plain white and the central tower was extended by 6.5 meters.

The collegiate chapter of Limburg was dissolved in 1803 during the Napoleonic period, but then raised to the rank of cathedral in 1827 when the bishopric of Limburg was founded. Some renovations in contemporary style followed: the walls were coated white, the windows were redone in blue and orange (the heraldic colors of the Duke of Nassau) and towers were added to the south transept (1865).

Further changes came after Limburg was incorporated into the Kingdom of Prussia in 1866. It was now the Romantic period and the cathedral was accordingly restored to an idealized vision of its original Romanesque appearance. The exterior stonework was stripped of all its plaster and paint, to better conform with the Romantic ideal of a medieval church growing out of the rock. The Baroque interior was stripped away and the wall paintings were uncovered and repainted.

Further renovations came in 1934-35, enlightened by better knowledge of the original art and architecture. Art Nouveau stained glass windows were also added. A major restoration in 1965-90 included replastering and painting the exterior, both to restore it to its original appearance and to protect the stonework, which was rapidly deteriorating while exposed to the elements.

The interior is covered in medieval frescoes dating from 1220 to 1235. They are magnificent and important survivals, but time has not been terribly kind to them - they were whitewashed over in the Baroque period (1749) and uncovered and repainted with a heavy hand in the Romantic period (1870s) before finally being restored more sensitively in the 1980s.