Nonnebakken (literally, "Nun Hill") is the site of one of Denmark's six former Viking ring castles, built during the reign of Sweyn Forkbeard, who had forced his father Harold Bluetooth to leave the country and seek refuge by the Jomsvikingson Wollin (modern Poland) around 975. The fort enabled its occupier command of the Odense River passing next to the hill.
The name refers to the Benedictine Nunnery located on the site at earlier times. To the end of the 12th century the Nuns left the site to build a new Church in Dalum to the southeast, now a suburb of Odense.
The earthworks can still be recognized in the panorama of Odense in the 'Civitates Orbis Terrarum' from Georg Braun and Frans Hogenberg. The engraving is in volume 5, that was finished in 1598 (although first published in 1612-18 in Cologne), on plate 30, that was made in 1593 from information contributed by Heinrich Rantzau or from sketches he gave in order. It also appears on the panorama of Odense published by Braunius in 1593.
The archaeological remains of the fort took heavy damage when a building for the Odd Fellow lodge was constructed on the site during the late nineteenth century. The site was excavated by the Fyns Stiftsmuseum. The castle had a diameter of 120 m and dates to 980-1000, similar to the other Viking ring castles.
Although finds have been reported from 1775 and 1889 the extent of the whole structure was first determined in 1953. The next major gain in Information was when in 1988 trenches where dug for laying cables. A ditch with pointed bottom was observed during the excavations. It was at least four meters wide and two meters deep with a berm of maximal 10 to 12 meters. The later filling could be dated to the time of the abbey. The profile of a ditch with pointed bottom eight meters wide and some four meters deep was excavated in the northeast and the northwest. During excavations prior to larger diggings for heating pipes in 1995/97/98 a ditch eleven meters wide and three meters deep was observed. A spade made of oak was found that was dated with dendrochronology to the functioning time of the structure. Excavations in 2002 revealed parts of the abbey.References:
The Abbey of Saint-Etienne, also known as Abbaye aux Hommes ('Men"s Abbey'), is a former monastery dedicated to Saint Stephen (Saint Étienne). It is considered, along with the neighbouring Abbaye aux Dames ('Ladies" Abbey'), to be one of the most notable Romanesque buildings in Normandy. Like all the major abbeys in Normandy, it was Benedictine.
Lanfranc, before being an Archbishop of Canterbury, was abbot of Saint-Etienne. Built in Caen stone during the 11th century, the two semi-completed churches stood for many decades in competition. An important feature added to both churches in about 1120 was the ribbed vault, used for the first time in France. The two abbey churches are considered forerunners of the Gothic architecture. The original Romanesque apse was replaced in 1166 by an early Gothic chevet, complete with rosette windows and flying buttresses. Nine towers and spires were added in the 13th century. The interior vaulting shows a similar progression, beginning with early sexpartite vaulting (using circular ribs) in the nave and progressing to quadipartite vaults (using pointed ribs) in the sanctuary.
The two monasteries were finally donated by William the Conqueror and his wife, Matilda of Flanders, as penalty for their marriage against the Pope"s ruling. William was buried here; Matilda was buried in the Abbaye aux Dames. Unfortunately William"s original tombstone of black marble, the same kind as Matilda"s in the Abbaye aux Dames, was destroyed by the Calvinist iconoclasts in the 16th century and his bones scattered.
As a consequence of the Wars of Religion, the high lantern tower in the middle of the church collapsed and was never rebuilt. The Benedictine abbey was suppressed during the French Revolution and the abbey church became a parish church. From 1804 to 1961, the abbey buildings accommodated a prestigious high school, the Lycée Malherbe. During the Normandy Landings in 1944, inhabitants of Caen found refuge in the church; on the rooftop there was a red cross, made with blood on a sheet, to show that it was a hospital (to avoid bombings).