roskilde cathedral

April 21, 2008

i took a (wonderful) day off from thesis to go to roskilde, a town about half an hour west of copenhagen by train (some might know it as home to the annual-and-very-famous-in-denmark summertime roskilde festival). i’ve been excited to visit roskilde for two reasons: the cathedral and the viking ship museum – which will get its own post because it was so great. stay tuned for viking ships. so, back to the cathedral…which is very historic, as churches have been constructed on this site for more than 1000 years. the first one was wooden, built by harald bluetooth. the present-day brick gothic/romanesque church has existed in more or less the same form since 1280. and, surprise, it is on unesco’s world heritage list (i think i’m going to make a new category just for all of the unesco sites i’ve visited…done!). it really is a dramatic building – you can see the trademark copper spires from very far away, and the cathedral is situated at the high point of the town, overlooking roskilde fjord. seen from below, it looms over the ridge in a rather imposing sort of way.

view from roskilde’s town hall square of the copper spires in the distance/model i found of the city circa 1400…you can see how the cathedral really dominates the townscape (unfortunately someone has absconded with the trademark copper spires…)

oblique view of the cathedral/cathedral in the distance…view from the beautiful ‘byparken’ that leads down to the fjord

the cathedral is undergoing restoration…it’s getting a new roof over the crossing and new copper roofing on its spires

exterior brick detail/the cathedral square and the side chapels

there is restoration happening on the interior, too/view of the nave

cross-vaulting details

more cross-vaulting…i really liked the painted designs on the ceiling and the contrast of the white surface with dark brick accents

roskilde cathedral is perhaps most famous as the burial place for danish royalty – all kings and most queens have been buried here since the reformation, and many have special individual chapels (left: the tomb of king christian ix and queen louise). and here’s the story behind the mechanical clock (right) from the official cathedral site:

The late 15th century clock with the mechanical figures is unique in Denmark. To the left is the knight Saint George. According to legend, he saved a city in Asia Minor from damnation. A dragon had the city in its thrall and refused to spare it unless it was fed with a virgin every year. Once, when it was the turn of the King’s daughter to be the next victim, Saint George arrived on horseback and slayed the dragon. Being a true saint, he would not accept the princess and half the kingdom as his reward – he had to move on and keep fighting evil elsewhere in the world.

st. george slays the dragon on the hour. it’s pretty cool.

next time…viking ships!

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