Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Danish Church - a short Summary 1/2

Source: Niels Peter Stilling, Danmarks Kirker, Politikens forlag 2000.

I: 800-1150
Paganism and Christianity

The first misson work arrived in Denmark in the 820s, but it is not known when the actual conversion to Christianity took place. The pope ordered in 822 the archbishop of Reims, Ebbo, to preach God's word among the pagan Danes - and Ebbo came to the foot of Jutland in 823 and baptized many Danes. A few years later, probably in 826, the Danish king Harald (Harald Klak) brought the missionary Ansgar to Denmark, but they were both driven out of the country in 827.
Ansgar in Hamburg

But Christianity was being preached 20 years later in Denmark. Ansgar was in 845 on good terms with the Danish king Horik, who gave him permission to build a church in Hedeby (Haithabu). Ansgar was at this point archbishop of Hamburg. Horik was killed in a power struggle in 854, and Haithabu church was destroyed, but reopened in the 860s. Ansgar, who was called the "Apostle of the North", had the permission to build another church, this time in the important trade city Ribe. Ansgar died in 865. It is uncertain if his wooden churches remained, but the princedom in South Jutland now knew a little more about Christianity.
Viking period,cities and Hedeby

replica Viking church, Moesgaard, Aarhus, photo: gb

At the end of the 900s Christianity really spread  among the Danes. In 948 three Danish bishops took part in a church meeting at the emperor's castle in Ingelheim -  Liafdag of Ribe, Hared of Schleswig and Reginbrand of Århus - they were the last of 26 bishops who signed a letter of the 7. June 948. Those three bishops were described as being the marionettes of the Hamburg-Bremen bishop Adaldag, who was eager to get a grip of the management of the Danish bishoprics, but it was doubtful if the bishops were even connected to a church in the three cities. Their starting point might have been mission stations in or just outside the banks of the three Viking towns, Ribe, Schleswig and Århus. In the trading towns the tolerant Nordic Asatru was still thriving beside the less tolerant Christianity. In Ribe, Schleswig and Århus the first Danish churches were confirmed in the emperor's letters from the second half of the 900s.

A letter issued in Magdeburg in 965 exempts the churches in Ribe, Schleswig and Århus from taxes by the German emperor Otto I. The letter says precisely that this matter was about the church properties in the "danernes mark eller rige" (the field or kingdom of the Danes). Otto I's successor Otto III confirms the privilege 20 years later to archbishop Adaldag of Bremen, and in this is only referred to the "kongeriget Danmark" (Regno Danorum). Another church is built in Odense (Odense = Odin's castle). The emperor's letters are issued during the years 965-988, which coincide with Harald Bluetooth's rule, and they bear a strong witness that Harald in this period spread his power to most of Denmark. The agent was Christianity and forced castles: the socalled Trelleborgs, which were built with technical expertise as giant circular plans with the cross as the geometric focal point.
Trelleborg, Zealand, photo: gb

Jelling stone, photo: gb
Harald's proud inscription on the Jelling stone are not empty words. The two-piece inscription says in a modern Danish: "Kong Harald bød gøre dette minde efter Gorm sin fader og Thyre sin moder - Den Harald som for sig vandt Danmark al og Norge og gjorde danerne kristne." The first part of the inscription is obviously a memos for Harald's parents. Another hand has later carved Harald's political programme in the large stone, which has the image of the earliest Christ-figure in the North. The Danes did not become Christians simultaneously because Harald did point the way, but it is remarkable that Harald was buried - not in the starting point Jelling -  but in the newly won Sjælland (Zealand) in Roskilde. The Jellingstone is an essential evidence that something new and lasting was on its way - and  in the following generation's fight between paganism and christianity no one dared to destroy Harald's stone-lined manifesto, Danmarks dåbsattest.

Church organisation.

The plank from Hørning church, Randers
Wooden churches were built in the cities and at the magnate farms in the villages, where Christianity gained ground. The church in Jelling was built in the middle of a pagan plan, probably because of Gorm's and Thyra's burial site, but it is not certain if there was any continuity between the pagan holy places and the Christian church. Hørning church north of Århus was built as a wooden church with a gravehill as the center, and a noble lady, who died shortly before the building of the church, was resting in her gravehill under the choir of the wooden church.

coin, Cnut the Great, British Museum
The organisation of the Danish church was initiated already by Sven Tveskæg (Forkbeard) during his rule. English bishops came to Denmark, which annoyed the bishopric in Hamburg- Bremen, where they wanted to manage the development in the Danish church. Sven's successor Knud den Store (Cnut the Great) even visited the papal court in Rome, which was another new act by the royal family, who had placed itfself, not only upon the Danish, but also upon the English throne.

Børglum kloster, photo gb
The bishop of Rhine, Vale, had in the middle of the 1000s arrogated to himself the clerical reign over all of North Jutland, but at his death in 1060 King Sven Estridsen took the opportunity to divide Jutland north of Kongeåen (Kings river) into four bishoprics. Besides the two old bishoprics in Ribe and Århus a bishopric was also established in the old thing-city Viborg - and a bishopric for "øen Vendsyssel" (the island Vendsyssel). The cathedral in Vendsyssel was built in Thy, in Vestervig, but in the early 1100s it was moved to Børglum in Vendsyssel. Besides the North Jutland bishoprics was also the old bishopric in Schleswig, which in the 1000s replaced Hedeby as the trade-center of the district. The Odense bishopric at Funen was founded in the 900s, and the Roskilde church belonged to the same early epoch. In  Skåne and Dalby were established two bishoprics, Lund and Dalby, but in the beginning of the 1100s Dalby was being merged with Lund.

The Christianity got a good grip in Denmark in Sven Estridsen's rule, he was born in England and his contemporary history-writer Adam of Bremen reports that there were 300 churches in Skåne, 150 at Sjælland and 100 at Funen. He says that "the wildness had gone and that the preachers of truth are gaining ground everywhere. The altars of the idols are being demolished and churches being raised everywhere".

replica stone church, Hjerl Hede Open Air Museum, photo:gb
The archbishopric in Hamburg-Bremen was supported by the pope and made still an attempt to claim its right on the church district in Denmark, but the old Danish connections with England made their mark on the Danish church in the end of the 1000s. Some bishops were summoned from England, and the first stone masons were inspired from the other side of the North Sea. English building masters might even have raised the first stone churches in the Danish coastal areas. The relation between paganism and Christianity were still balancing on a tightrope. Most part of the church buildings in Denmark were wooden churches - and the wooden church was not necessarily placed, where the later stone church was raised.

Christian culture.

King Erik Ejegod achieved in 1103 the acknowledgement from the pope of the Danish archbishopric in Lund, which his clever father Sven Estridsen had already letter-exchanged with pope Gregor 7 in 1075. It was succeeded now and the road was cleared for a release from the German church.

Altarpiece Claus Berg, Odense, wikipedia.

Erik Ejegod's successor was his brother Niels, who reigned from 1103 - 1134. The Christianity was smouldering everywhere. A few kept letters from that time lighten the extension of the organisation and rule of the church. Lots of property was willed to the church for the sake of people's peace of soul. The English  archbishop Anselm of Canterbury congratulated the first Danish archbishop Asser with his election and admonished him not to take renegade foreign clericals in his service. The pope underlined that the bishops' taxes to the kurier, the socalled Peter's money, should be paid yearly as an uncut "gift of love". The English monk and historian Ælnoth dedicated ab. 1115 his biography about the murdered Knud den Hellige to his brother the pious king Niels, who at the same time discretely was encouraged to let his power as king decorate his brother's precious relics with gifts worthy of him, letting them increase the beauty of the holy house.  Niels did not ignore the request, but gave in the following years both estate rights and moneygifts to the Odense-church, which at that time probably became one of the richest and most
The Death of Canute the Holy, von Benzon.

magnificent churches, built over the martyr king Knud. (Canute the Holy). The question about taxes to the church, about the commitment of the priests not to get married, about the authority field of the bishops and about the mission work at Rügen were dominant parts of the letters from that period.

It is not exactly known when the first kloster was founded in Denmark, but the flowering period began with the establishment by Erik Ejegod of Sct. Knud's kloster in Odense in 1096. The first 12 Benedictine monks for the kloster came from Eversham in South England, and the bishop in Odense, Hubald, came also from England. The klosters in Vestervig, Børglum, Ringsted and Esrom were also founded before 1150. In Herrevad in Skåne  the first Cistersian kloster of the North was built

in 1144. Almost ten years later, in 1153, Esrom kloster was remade into a Cistercian kloster and developed quickly into the spiritual center of the agricultural order in the North. 
Esrom Kloster, photo: gb

Ribe Cathedral "Kathoveddøren", photo: gb
In the the same period the building of stone churches was intensified, both in the country and in the city. Archbishop Asser inaugurated the altar of Lund cathedral on June 30 1123, and at the same time began the building of the cathedral in Viborg and Ribe.

King Niels ruled for 30 years and his rule ended in murder, rebellion and civil war, also and not at least the bishops took part in the battle of Fodevig at the coast of Skåne in the summer 1134, where four bishops were killed. But in spite of this the church building continued as never before, and the kloster foundations too. Several churches were built as fortifications, as a protection against both inner and outer enemies. This were mostly the round churches at Bornholm which were meant to be a retreat for the inhabitants of the island, while the round churches in the rest of the country were a mix of God's house and a power symbol of the local magnate.

Thorsager church, Djursland, photo: gb

Next II: 1150- 1950.

photo: grethe bachmann 
photo borrowed from wikipedia