Visiting Roskilde Cathedral: Cold Days, Warm Hearts

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On a frigid, dreary day in Denmark at the end of March, Mike and I bundled up in our warmest coats and set out with our friend Carolyn to visit the Roskilde Cathedral in the city of the same name. Our first and foremost stop had been the Viking Museum nearby, but the cathedral was also a place we had looked forward to visiting. Although we knew the almost 800 year-old medieval cathedral was a UNESCO World Heritage Site, we didn’t realize just how captivating the place would be until we arrived.

 

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To show just how enormous the medieval Roskilde Cathedral is, look at how tiny Carolyn (with the pink cap) and I are as we walk towards the door.

First of all, the cathedral is a massive building that dwarfs you and immediately makes you feel like the peasant you are. Yes, it’s that big. One of the amazing things about this huge building is that more than forty kings and queens of Denmark are buried within the hallowed church grounds.

First of all, the cathedral is a massive building that dwarfs you and immediately makes you feel like the peasant you are.

Even the Viking King Harold Bluetooth (985 A.D.) who introduced Christianity to Denmark and his son Svend Forkbeard, who conquered England, are supposedly buried there. That’s a lot of Danish royalty (or royalty of any nationality for that matter).

The large cathedral overwhelms your senses and immediately makes you feel its timelessness, its history and gives visitors the realization of something bigger and more powerful than themselves. If you are Christian, you definitely feel the presence of God, but even if you are not, I’m sure you will feel a spiritual tug at your heart and soul.

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The church is one of the first Gothic cathedrals in the 12th century to have been built of red brick, as this was a new medium for building whose use eventually spread throughout Europe. Like many older churches it has been reconstructed over several centuries. Different monarchs have added burial chapels and porches as well as other additions, so the building at present reflects the evolution of European architecture over the 800 years it has been in existence.

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The sarcophagus of Queen Margrete I whose remains were transferred to Roskilde in 1413 lies in the Cathedral.

I feel like the Cathedral is so rich in history that there is no way I could do it justice in a blog post, so I just wanted to touch on a few areas of interest through my photos and urge you to read more about it. And by all means visit this place if you are ever near Copenhagen. You will be better for it.

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One of the sepulchres in the Chapel of Christian I. The chapel was built in the second half of the 1400s.

The Viking Museum was wonderful, but this magnificent place had the three of us dumbstruck. We stayed there over three hours and we probably would have stayed longer if time had permitted. We kept wandering around with our heads turning in circles. I was getting a neck ache with all the looking up and down, and all around.

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Again, look at how small we look in the Christian IV Chapel which houses the coffins of Christian IV and his family.

We also were trying to be careful not to step on all of the holy tombstones on the floors of the church, even though many of them were worn by centuries of church congregants visiting their place of worship. All three of us wanted to give the place the respect it deserved.

What’s also interesting about the cathedral is that it is still a working church which is used on a regular basis. While we were there, we saw a class full of students praying together around the altar.  It was really lovely to see how the grand Gothic church still had a youthful presence.

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The window below is from Trolle’s Chapel, named after a royal vassal, Niels Trolle. It was just one example of the incredible wrought iron grating throughout the church.

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I have walked through many churches throughout Europe with some being much more ornate, some grander, some less so, but Roskilde Cathedral touched me in a way that some of the fancier ones didn’t. Have you been to a place, whether it be a church or just a field of flowers, that made you feel so small but so peaceful in your heart? That is how I felt in Roskilde Cathedral.

 

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