Saturday, May 14, 2011

Roskilde Domkirke

Roskilde Cathedral (Domkirke) is part of UNESCO World Heritage list (since 1995). Being the first Gothic cathedral built of brick in Europe, it is located in the city of Roskilde and it is a Lutheran Chruch. It was the main burial site for Danish monarchy starting from 15th century, but it also hosts the tombs of other medieval royal figures.

The history of the cathedral has many important stages, that contributed to the current view of it. New parts have been added, century after century, in different style, giving the unique architecture that we can see today. In 960, Harald Bluetooth established the capital of Denmark at Roskilde. He was buried later in the small timber church dedicated to the Holy Trinity. In 991, Roskilde became the home of Bishop of Roskilde , the one responsible for the island of Zealand and Scania. Almost one century later (1076-1088), the first stone cathedral was built, in Romanesque style, having a long nave ,two side aisles and two towers flanking the west front entrance. Bishop Svend Nordmand was the one repsonsible for this and he made St. Lucius ( pope between 253-255 ) the patron saint of the cathedral, by bringing his skull from Santa Cecilia in Trastevere. The legend sais that there were some deamons in the regions, and they didn't feared anything but the skull of St. Lucius, so bringing the relic into the area restored the peace of the fjord. Absalon is probably the most famous Bishop of Roskilde, and is the one who had a great contribution to the history of Denmark.

The only coronation that happened here was the one of King Canute VI in 1170. Couple of years later, the succesor of Absalon, Peder Sunesen began his plan of expanding the Cathedral, having as inspiration the Gothic Cathedral Tournai from Belgium (were he was mentored). Because he was not able to find enough good quality stone, the material used for construction was brick (over 3,000,000 large sized red bricks). The new cathedral was twice as big as the original one and its construction finished in 1280. Three chapels were built in the north part of the cathedral and they were dedicated to St. Birgitte, St. Christofer and St. Andrew. A big fire destroyed partially the cathedral in 1443. King Christian I paid for its reconstruction and he built The Chapel of The Magi were him and his wife are buried. The tomb of Queen Margrete I was also moved from Sorø Abbey in 1414.

The Cathedral was initially Catholic, but after the Reformation(1536), when Denmark embraced the Protestant branch of Christianity, the Roskilde Cathedral was transformed for the Protestant service. The choir was opened to the west, the side altars were remove and the furniture required for the service was brought in.

New chapels were constructed for keeping the tombs of the kings buried here. An important one is the Chapel of Christian IV added in 1614 that contains the tomb of the king, of his wife and a statue of the king, created by the famous sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen.

The Chapel of Frederik V, one of the most beautiful chapels, keeps along with the tomb of Frederik V, the remainings of Christian VI, VII, VIII, Frederik VI and VII, together with their consorts. The two wifes of Frederik V, Princess Louise of Great Britain( daughter of King George II, died while delivering the sixth child of the couple) and Duchess Juliana Maria of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel (daughter of Ferdinand Albert II, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg ) are represented in a statuary group next to Frederik V tomb.

In the present days, the Cathedral is open for service but can be visited as a museum for a small fee. It can be reached by train (regional or inter-city ) either from Central Station or Høje Taastrup or by bus (123). The official website of the Cathedral is Roskilde Domkirke

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