Monday, May 13, 2019

Sæby church , Vendsyssel, Northeast Jutland

Sæby old watermill
The small  town Sæby lies in an idyllic landscape by the mouth of Sæby river  at Kattegat Maybe the Vikings were the first who lived here in a small village. In 1450 was  a small church was built near the sea. Both the town and the nearby manor Sæbygård belonged to the rich Børglum bishopric -  and in the 1460s the bishop Jep Friis established a Carmelite kloster by the church. The kloster was inagurated to Sct. Maria and the town was called Mariested, a name which was changed into Sæby after the reformation. The bishop Stygge Krumpen provided the municipal rights for the town in 1524.

Sæby church is the prettiest small town church in North Jutland. The church was built in ab. 1400. The Gothic church was originally a parish church, but in 1460 a Carmelite-kloster was established in Sæby on the initiative of the Børglum bishop Jep Friis. The kloster buildings were built on the northside of the paris church, and the church was at the same time in the years after 1460 extended to the east with an access to the kloster. To the westwas built a tower. The long church (54 m) but narrow church was extended with a stately south chapel which opens towards the nave with arcades and with a great light from the windows. The main entrance is to the west in the tower which vaulted underroom is a front hall.

The frescoes are among the most important in the district. The earliest at the north wall  are from the first part of the 1400s. The eastern vault of the nave and the choir vault are completely covered by frescoes from ab. 1500. They are attributed to the socalled Sæby workshop which artworks also  are found in Vrå church and in Budolfi church in Aalborg. The southern chapel is completely covered by winding ornaments, only the south west vault has original paintings  from ab. 1525, while the other vaults are repainted in 1888. Two coat of arms are also seen for the last bishops of Vendsyssel, Niels Stygge Rosenkrantz and his follower Stygge Krumpen who lost his office in the reformation in 1536.

The church has a rich inventory. The late Gothic altarpiece is magnificent - a Netherland work from the beginning of the 1500s. In the southern chapel hangs a contemporary Maria figure, a late Gothic carving with a fine decoration. The figure is attributed to the Odense-carver Claus Bergs workshop ca. 1520. The communion table has a painted antepedium with a tablet from 1697 and the coat of arms of Holger Pachs and Lisbeth Bille of Sæbygård.

The pupils from Latin school made sketches of ships.
In the choir are kept 20 original late medieval monk-chairs in oak with pretty late Gothic carvings. A special detail are the sketches of ships which the pupils from the Latin school  have made while they had to listen to the hour-long sermon of the parson.. ( 52 sketches of ships from the period 1550-1739)

The granite font is from 1906. An older baptismal font,a  wooden carving from 1645 is now in the chapel. The pulpit is a Renaissance work  from 1577 with a Baroque decoration from 1695. The ore candelabres were given by Niels Iwersen and Ingeborg Banner in 1586.  In the front hall is a late Gothic crucifix from ab 1500, in the church are two other crucifix

There are several grave memorials in the church ( like epitaphs from the 1700s).

The present church yard replaced the old one in 1872. In an excavation in 1977 were found rests of  the kloster buildings. The rests of the kloster were broken down in 1536 and the monk stones were used to secure the harbour. On the other side of the square lies Sæby hospital established in 1565 by the nobleman Mogens Juel of Knivholt. 

Monday, January 14, 2019

Holbækgaard , Holbæk parish, Norddjurs Kommune

The manor lies in flat salt marshes ab. ten meter above sea with a free view over Randers Fjord. It is not known if it was a robber's nest in the old days, from where was an fine access to the merchants' ships. The first residing here was probably by one of Denmark's most notorious men, the socalled "king's murderer" Rane Jonsen of the family Rani. He was the owner of much estate in the country when he was convicted an outlaw together with his companions in 1287. His estate came to the Crown  - and the estate at Djursland was established as Ranes Gods (Rane's estate) which existed up into the 16th century.

After Rane Jonsen are mentioned several clerical and secular owners of Holbækgaard, but the names and ownerships are not clear. In 1340 it is said that Peder Munk "must have his farm in Holbæk given back" and in 1367 he is written of Holbækgaard. Still it is not sure if he was the owner. A long feud between the bishops in Aarhus and the family Munk did not end until Erik of Pommern had made judgment in 1408, where it should belong to the bishop in Aarhus. Peder Munk had possibly wrongly owned the farm or he was a vasal at Holbækgaard by bishop Svend who like himself was at odds with Grev Gert.

After the long feud which ended in 1408, the bishopric of Aarhus probably owned Holbækgaard manor and estate and Holbækgaard stayed in the ownership of the bishops until the reformation, where it was transferred to the Crown like other clerical estate. The last vasal Anders Jacobsen from a not wellknown noble family Hvittenstjern kept the vasalry but died shortly after and was followed by his widow, who in 1540 was succeeded by Hans Stygge who in 1544 bought it from the king.

There are almost no traces from the old Holbækgaard. The low rampart is disturbed and only the western part is kept, but it is obvious that it was circular with a 4o meter diameter and rather modest. The new owner built  the stonehouse, mentioned in 1568, it was probably a freestanding building with a flat cellar  and two storeys, only 17 meter long  and tower-like. It had the mark of the late Gothic period  and it might easily have been built shortly after Hans Stygge became the owner, but possibly a litte later since the year 1560 is said to be carved upon the building. Hans Stygge also built a timbered house and here was kitchen, bakery, castle room etc. while the stoneh
coffin plate for Hans Stygge,
ouse only had few rooms. The second storey might have been a dance hall.

According to the taste and conditions  of that time Holbækgård was a genteel residence. Hans Stygge died in 1568. He was noted by firmness and honesty. After him came his son Mourids Stygge,who for a long time was High court judge in North Jutland. He increazsed the property exchanges with the king. He left some diary books where he mentions that he "kept house at Huolbeckgaard". In 1580 he was married to Anne Iversdatter Lykke in the hall. The family Stygge died out already in the middle of the 17th century. Fru Anne Lykke resided after her husband's death at Holbækgaard for some years. Three sons had died before their father and the fourth the son Peder was killed in 1613 in Sweden in the fight at Skellinge Hede. Shortly after this fru Anne Lykke sold Holbækgaard to hr. Albret Christensen Skeel of Fussingø. He died ab. 1623 in Randers, ca. 70 years of age .

Albret Skeel was a coleric man, but a very able rigsråd and admiral. He was vasal at Riberhus from 1601, and he increased the estate of Holbækgaard. In 1630 he transferred it to his eldest son Christen, who lived here until 1633. Maybe it was for his children that Christen improved the stonehouse, since he extended it to the north and improved it in other ways. In the wall above the entrance of Holbækgård is a stone with the coat of arms of Christen Skeel and his first wife Birgitte Rud and the year 1645.
Christen Skeel

Christen Skeel died in 1659 after having outlived his second wife Margrethe Jørgensdatter Lunge. He has been characterized as one of the finest Danish noblemen. He was both State Commissioner and rigsråd, and he was used in many public services like in  some embarrassing negotiations with Karl Gustav. (Sweden) He was a very sympathetic personality . His leftover writings, esp. his diary give much good information.

After his death his big estate was shared among his children. His daughter Berthe inherited Holbækgaard. It seems she also inherited the best qualities of her father's. She was married to Lieutenant General and Commander Niels Rosenkrantz of Skovgaard. They married 1661, but he died 14 years later - he was killed at the siege of Helsingborg. Berthe resided as a widow and owner of her father's manor until her death in 1720. Her husband had as a gift from Christen Skeel got Holbæk and Udby church with estate, and Berthe decorated those two churches where she was now the owner. In Holbæk church she rised in 1682 a richly carved altarpiece etc.

It was Berthe Skeel's wish to keep Holbækgaard for her family Skeel. She therefore established in 1700 manor and estate as a stamhus (entailed estate). Her own children died when they were little, but she brought up many aristocratic children. The entailed estate was meant for her orphant niece Charlotte Amalie who was the daughter of prefect Mogens Christensen Skeel of Fussingø. She later got royal grant to gather manor and estate under her own birk,  which existed until 1852, to which the manor  Stenalt also belonged (the manors had then a common owner). 

later owners
1720 Chr. L.v. Plessen
1727 Axel Bille
1765 J.E.Røtgersen Tegder
1779 H. Amnitzbøll 
1791 R.A.Amnitzbøll
1852 A.T.H. Mourier Petersen
1893 H.H. Quistgaard
1908 A.J Hastrup
1914-41 various owners
1941 Anna Marg. Hornemann 
1945 Elisabeth Ratel 
1961-73 C.L. Ahlefeldt-Laurvig 

1973-92 unknown 
1992  Niels Bjerregaard/Anette Rønne

Source Danske slotte og herregårde, bd 14, arkivar, can,mag. S. Nygaard;  

photo: wikipedia 

Friday, January 11, 2019

Brøns church, Tønder Kommune, Sønderjylland

Brøns church, 15 km south of Ribe.


The church in Brøns is literally one of Denmark's big churches, known as Denmark's largest village church. It is known for its fine Gothic inventory and the unique frescoes. The artist reproduced in his paintings his view of the decay of the Pope church in the 1530s.

The 47 m long whitewashed building stands upon a profiled granite plinth. The church was in the Middle Ages consecrated to Sankt Villads and had a close connection to Ribe cathedral. 

Apse and choir are the earliest, Romanesque from the late 1100s, built in tufa stone.  The nave (in tufa stone) was built in the beginning of the 1200s. The large windows are new, but four Romanesque windows can still be  traced at the northside. In  a window of the nave is a glass painting by J.T.Skovgaard. Choir and nave have a flat beamed ceiling. The apse is covered in a late Gothic rib vault. The beamed ceiling has acanthus decorations from the 1700s.

Upon the northside of the choir is a closed priest-door, but all other original doors have disappeared. The late Gothic tower was built in monk bricks in the late 1400s. It rises 31 m tall with a typical spire (Tørninglen-type).The  present entrance is via the tower room.Here are frescoe-rests in the vault and a Romanesque gravestone in granite with a relief cross.

The little special ridge turret upon the choir is from the Renaissance period. All roof work is original and is signed with runes and the name Didrik.


Late Renaissance altarpiece is probably carved by the Varde-master Jens Olufsen. The paintings in the fields are original. Upon the gallery 12 apostel figures from a late Gothic triptychon and an organ from 1699, later rebuilt.  In the choir a monstrance-cupboard from ab. 1300s. The Romanesque granite font is somewhat scrapped in 1858, upon the basin are four male heads and diverse ornaments, upon the foot four corner heads. Above the font a sounding board from 1651. Upon a newer beam in the triumph arch a large crucifix group from the late 15th century. A simple Renaissance pulpit. Closed pews from 1730. A late medieval church coffin and an armored moneyblock from the 17th century. Two late Baroque style epitaphs. A Romanesque gravestone in the tower room and ab. 20 gravestones from the 16-18th century. The church was restored in 1961 by architect R. Graae.


 The frescoes in Brøns have a unique place among Danish frescoes. The frescoes upon the northern wall of the church are from the 1530, in the time of the reformation. The inspiration comes from Germany  They are filled with clerical and secular figures dressed in colourful and draped robes from the 1500s. The frescoes in Brøns is a unique document from the time of the reformation . 


photo: grethe bachmann
source: Danmarks kirker, Niels Peter Stilling, 2000. - Nordens kirker - Danmarks kirker. dk - wikipedia.