Vestervig church lies desolate and stately with a magnificent view to the Limfjorden and the North Sea. It is a a church in Vestervig parish in Thisted Kommune (municipality) in Thy. The church is unusually large and is said to be the largest village church in the North (see note later). Its size is due to its history as a church of the lost Vestervig kloster. (Augustinian abbey). Besides existed a royal manor while it was built, and the opinion is that Knud den Store gathered his fleet at Vestervig for a Viking expedition to England.
|The church in 1897/wikipedia|
A cathedral and a kloster.
The building masters masters came from England from where also the Augustinian monks arrived for the kloster. The basic church plan was a traditional three-naved cross church, built as a basilica in heavy granite ashlars and with a choir and apse to the east. In the cross sections were chapels to the east with apse-finish. The church was almost 60 meter long and worthy of the new bishopric, but the building had not yet finished completely when a complicated feud about the power began about the bishopric. The result was that the bishopric between 1134 and 1139 was moved to Børglum in Vendsyssel. The church and the kloster buildings remained however and Vestervig developed into a place of pilgrimage around Sct Thøger's church.
Rebuild and Reformation
The rebuild was finished, but the kloster was shortly after abandoned at the reformation. The kloster church did not disappear though, but Sct Thøger's old church was demolished in 1547. The kloster buildings remained and was used by the Danish Crown for various purpose. One of king Frederik 3.'s officials was in 1661 given Vestervig kloster which during the following years was rebuilt into a manor. In 1839-1840 the manor was demolished because of bad economy and with it the choir of the church.
Rebuild in the 1900s
A new rebuild started in 1917-21, which was a complete rebuild of choir and apse. The Romanesque kloster church was recreated on the outside, but the architect respected the 1400s rebuild of the cross arms and the late Gothic west tower. Note: The cathedral and kloster church in Vestervig is mentioned as the largest village church in the North, although it is not situated in a village or has anything to do with a village church as to a historical meaning.
The landmark of Vestervig In the middle of the choir wall is a strange ashlar with a relief called the landmark of Vestervig. The relief has four heads, surrounded by leaf ornaments and to the right two dragons where one bites the other in the tail. The upper heads are two bearded men and below two caricatured animal-like heads, which can be interpreted as the devil with his tongue out of the mouth and a Christ mask with lushly leaf-windings out of his mouth. The devil is the work of the devil, while the Christ mask and the flowers are the makings of God.
There are several Gothic fresoes inside the church, in one is a pig playing a bagpipe, another fresco shows a dog eating a goose, but there are also some pretty rib-decorations and Gothic leaf windings.
The oldest inventory is the baptismal font, which is uniqe in Denmark. It was made in Norway, carved in soapstone.The carved decorations on the font refer to the transition time between the Viking period and the early Romanesque style. The font was not originally a part of the inventory since the kloster did not have any baptismal ceremonies, but it probably came from Sct. Thøger's church, and he himself might have brought the font back with him from Norway.
The altar piece is voluptous Baroque, originally meant for the cathedral in Viborg but sold to Vestervig church in 1729. The paintings are from 1735.
In the tower room is the large Marcussen organ, a great craftsmanship from 1978.
A fine collection of gravestones are also from the Romanesque period, several prettily carved with crosses in high relief and long Latin inscriptions, like the priest Tue's stone from 1210 and the canon Atte's stone from 1217. A couple of Gothic gravestones for Niels Strangesen Bild and wife Ingeborg Dusenradedatter from ab. 1424 and for Peder Friis and Christine Nielsdatter from 1483.
The legend about Liden Kirsten and Prince Buris The most famous grave memorial in the large grave yard is "Liden Kirstens Grav." The legend about Liden Kirsten is a story about king Valdemar den Store's sister, who in the king's absence was seduced by prince Buris, a halfbrother of Valdemar's evil queen Sophie, who actually was behind the intrigue. When Valdemar came home and saw the result of the illegal love relation beween the two young people, he grew so furious that he danced and whipped his sister to death, while Buris had his eyes cut out. Kirsten was buried in Vestervig and the mutilated Buris spent his last years behind the walls of the kloster. According to a legend he haunted the church yard in his chains. Another legend says that he was buried by the feet of Liden Kirsten.
A dramatic and grim story about one of our hero kings and his little sister. The persons are real, but the historical facts do not fit well with the legend. Buris Henriksen was not Sophie's brother,but Valdemar's second cousin and a son of Henrik Skadelaar. Buris was born ab. 1130 and belonged like Valdemar to the royal family, they were both great grandsons of Svend Estridsen. Buris was one of few, who in the 1160s would not acknowledge Valdemar as king. But Valdemar was overbearing and endowed Buris with large property in North Jutland, but since Buris conspired with the Norwegian king Erling Skakke against Valdemar things went wrong. Buris was sent to prison at Søborg castle in 1167 and disappears from historical sources..
It was correct that Valdemar had a sister named Kirsten, she was not his little sister, but thirteen years older than Valdemar., born in 1118. In 1133 when Valdemar was 2 years of age, she got married to the Norwegian king Magnus. After his death in 1139 she returned to Denmark and in 1165 when the legend took place Kirsten was a woman of 47 years.
And Valdemar was hardly a guardian of virtue. At nineteen he had a love affair with Tove. which resulted in 1150 in a son Christoffer.
But it might be that the king's sister and Buris Henriksen were buried in the church yard at Vestervig, where she as a widow and he as a mutiliated prisoner of state had lived their last years.
Excavations of the grave.
|Romanesque grave/ Nors church, North Jutland/gb.|
The grave was reopened in 1962. Two Romanesque graves were found. In one was a woman of 30-50 years, in the other grave a male of 50 years, who was heavily weakened. In connection to examinations in 1962 new theories were forwarded about the two persons. The male person might be Buris Henriksen, son of Henrik Skadelaar. Buris had served king Valdemar den Store, but fell from grace in 1167 and was chained at Søborg castle, whereafter he disappears from the historical sources. The woman might be the Norwegian princess Kristine Sigurdsdatter who was married to Erling Skakke with whom she had the son Magnus. Erling Skakke wanted to secure Magnus against rivals for the Crown and let Kristine's illegal son kill in 1168. Kristine went to Denmark in 1169 and died here in 1178.
Buris Henriksen had stayed at Erling Skakkes' court. Was he the father of Kristines child and did he live his last years in Vestervig together with Kristine as residents at the kloster?
There are more theories and more suggestions of other persons in this story, but this would be a very long description!!
A beautiful tradition.
It is a tradition that a newlywed bride puts her bouquet on Liden Kirsten's Grave because Kirsten never got one herself. The same tradition is used in Landet church at the island Tåsinge where the bride puts a bouquet on Elvira Madigan's grave.
An ancient Danish folksong about Liden Kirsten and prince Buris is connected to the story.
Danmarks Kirker, Niels Peter Stilling, 2000; Kirkens Hjemmeside og "Knakken" af henrik Bolt Jørgensen 1990 samt wikipedia dansk og engelsk.
|Vestervig church seen from the North. (Google Earth)|
|Iron Age settlement north of Vestervig church (Google Earth )|
An Iron Age settlement north of the church was partly excavated in the 1960s. Visible are stone pavings, contours of houses, herring bone pattern-pavings at the entrance.
About 500 meter to the west is another Iron Age settlement at Vestervig Kloster Mølle (Mill).There are several Iron Age settlements in the neighbourhood.
photo: grethe bachmann, wikipedia and google Earth.