visiting bornholm’s round churches was one of the ‘themes’ of our trip. the collection of four churches is a kind of architectural icon for bornholm – they’re all similar in form, materials, and construction (though each has its own individual personality), and were all built between 1150 and 1250. they’re super practical buildings – the round shape of the churches allowed them to serve as storage places for grain and other commodities as well as to defend against viking raids during the unrest of the middle ages. there are also some theories afloat about a connection between the round churches and the knights templar, who were crusading around this time. the churches are two or three stories and are constructed of thick stone walls with central pillars that support circular barrel vaults on each floor. the conical roofs were added in 1600; before that, the churches were crowned with open battlements and embrasures (so they looked more like little castles). i really enjoyed visiting them – and they’re spaced out quite well on the island, so it gave us a chance to see a lot of the in-between. it was fun to search for them, because we could see the conical roofs from so far away…they’re definitely landmarks on the very rural island. and they’re lovely little buildings. so…here’s a mini-tour of bornholm’s round churches:


olsker church is the tallest and slimmest of the four churches – it’s on a hill and is so tall relative to its surroundings that it once served as a navigation point for fisherman at sea; it gets its name from the hero-king ‘olaf the holy,’ a major figure in a battle between the christians and the heathens

the buttresses were added in the 1800s to stabilize it/tiny apse

inside detail/outside detail

we got to climb up to the third level…via this wee door and steep staircase/the wooden roof construction is amazing!!

the round nave and tiny ship hanging from the ceiling; the upper part of the central column is painted with frescoes of biblical scenes/spiral stair to the choir


nyker church (‘new church’ or ‘all saints church’) was built from granite boulders, except for the central column, which was constructed using local limensgade stone

nyker was the smallest of the four churches, with only two stories (it used to have three, but the top level was removed with the battlements)

inside detail/outside detail

the frescoes on the central pillar at nyker church are from the 1300s

the round nave/view to the apse


østerlars (or ‘east st. lawrence’s’) is the largest (and i think most visited) of the four churches

its distinctive buttresses were added in the 1500s and 1600s to keep the walls from pushing outward/view looking straight up at the roof construction – crazy!

indoor detail/outdoor detail

the central pillar of østerlars church is so large that it is inhabitable – its nickname is ‘the oven’…the vaulted space is now used as a baptistery/view of the radiating pew boxes and the altarpiece

the lovely cemetery on the church’s exterior


nylars church is dedicated to st. nicholas

lovely site among the fields/cemetery churchyard

indoor detail/outdoor detail

view of the round nave and the choir…the frescoes on the central pillar of nylars church are the oldest preserved examples on bornholm and date to about 1250

i really liked the bluish color of the pillar stone (‘bornholm silurian limestone’)…and the frescoes depicting scenes from genesis: ‘the creation and fall of man in seven scenes’


here’s the promised landscape photo post…i just wanted to share these photos separately because i was so impressed/amazed by the variety of different (and picturesque) landscapes contained on a 590km² island (that’s 230 square miles for you u.s.’ers), of which we saw only half. needless to say, i made a LOT of photo stops while biking. there are additional photos on my flickr page, but these are my favorites. hope you enjoy them!

bornholm by bike

May 6, 2008

the gorgeous bornholm landscape (stay…posted…for a post with more landscape photos!)

over the may 1st holiday weekend, my friend cat and i took what ended up being one of my very favorite (if not THE favorite – maybe this one and ‘hakka roundhouse trip #1’) trips ever – to bornholm, a danish island in the baltic sea (waaay far east of the rest of denmark…it’s on the other side of the southernmost point of sweden, and has actually been part of sweden at a few different points in history). we brought our bikes with for transportation and spent three days exploring the island. i was thinking that it would be a nice place, since many danes vacation there, but it far exceeded my expectations – it was SO beautiful and we had absolutely perfect weather. cat was also an excellent travel companion, and very patient with my amateur biking status (she’s what i would call a ‘serious’ seattle biker…needless to say, i’m learning lots of new bike vocab). : ) it was very fun, and bicycle was the perfect way to get around the island – to me, it’s a very danish mode of transportation, and it allowed us to travel at our own pace and really take in all of the scenery (while stopping often to photograph it, of course). one of my danish friends told me that if i were to visit one place in denmark outside of copenhagen, it should be bornholm…and so we went. we covered 115km(!) in three days and were exhausted at the end of the trip, but very happy that we’d gone!

here’s the ferry that we took from ystad in sweden to bornholm (we took the train from copenhagen to ystad…and were able to bring our bikes on both the train and the ferry with special tickets)

cat and her lovely golden bike at the beginning of our trip

some photos that cat took of me doing ‘bike things’ and hauling the backpack…i was so impressed that my trusty second-hand city bike did such a good job!

some adjustments were made…

cat was a very good sport and visited all four of the island’s round churches with me (i’ll also post more specifically about these in the near future)

cat’s documentation of me documenting one of the round churches

although i was not the only one taking photos…

view of sandvig, the town outside of which our hostel was located

a very yummy second saturday breakfast of black coffee and fiskefrikadeller (fried danish fish meatball) – gotta keep up that energy level! this was enjoyed on a picnic table at a lovely seaside cafe : )

unlike the rest of denmark, bornholm is NOT flat…i was very, very happy to make it to the top of this hill…and many others…

we had a picnic lunch one day at the harbour in gudhjem (a town on the east coast of the island)

windmill in gudhjem/lighthouse at bornholm’s northern tip

a rogeri, or smokehouse, in gudhjem…smoked fishes and other seafood are one of the island’s specialties

on sunday, we visited the ruins of the fort at hammershus, northern europe’s largest medieval fortification. hammershus was built in the 1200’s on the island’s granite cliffs to the north (it was a really big deal to see cliffs in denmark…cat, who has seen a lot more of the country than me, couldn’t believe we were still in danish territory).

the fort was used as a base for the danish crusades and was conquered at various times by both sweden and lübeck. i liked all of the different window openings…perhaps strategically placed for defensive purposes?

stone and brick construction of the tower/remains of the fortress chapel

cat takes a break among the ruins

on our way from hammershus back to rønne to catch the ferry home, we rode along what is definitely the loveliest bicycle path i’ve ever been on…

…parts of which skirted the coast/me celebrating the successful completion of our trip with a triumphant (and delicious) ice cream cone in rønne : )