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|
|The plank from Hørning church, Randers|
|coin, Cnut the Great, British Museum|
|Børglum kloster, photo gb|
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|
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.|
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
|Esrom Kloster, photo: gb|
|Ribe Cathedral "Kathoveddøren", photo: gb|
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