Visiting Roskilde Cathedral: Cold Days, Warm Hearts

fullsizeoutput_3e77

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.

 

IMG_0075
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.

IMG_0051

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.

IMG_0063
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.

fullsizeoutput_3e8d
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.

IMG_0056
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.

IMG_9974

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.

fullsizeoutput_3e7c

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.

 

Stairway to Heaven at Vor Frelsers Kirke

Who says you can’t climb a stairway to heaven? One of the first things Mike and I did after we arrived in Copenhagen was climb the stairs of the incredible Vor Frelsers Kirke.

First things first, “kirke” is the word for “church” in Danish and Vor Frelsers Kirke in English means “Our Savior’s Church.”  Many of the Copenhagen city maps have the tourist spots in Danish (which is only natural) and if you go looking for Our Saviors Church, you are not going to find it on the map in English. However, if you are anywhere in or near the Christianshavn neighborhood, all you need to do is look up at the massive black and gold spire and you will find the majestic Vor Frelsers Kirke.

fullsizeoutput_3dc4

The spire has something magical about it that draws you in with its golden spiral staircase and the large gold globe at the top of it.

It has a magnificent presence towering over the streets of Christianshavn.

fullsizeoutput_3dcf

According to the church’s website, the red brick facade of the church was built in 1680 in the baroque style and consecrated in 1696.  The tower wasn’t consecrated until 1752 and it’s imposing presence stands over 300 feet (95 meters) high.  The wooden steps leading up to it are a little shaky and worn and lend to the excitement as you climb the 400 steps to the top.

IMG_0004

The last 150 steps are outside and wind around the tower. The day we went there was ice on quite a few of them, so they were a little slippery, thus with the wind made the climb even more scary.  Here are the different views of the city that you are able to see as you ascended:

fullsizeoutput_3de0

IMG_9710

This is not a climb for the faint of heart, but it is so worth it if you are able to muster up the courage and energy to attempt it.  I did see some older people (older than me, that is!) climbing the stairs, so if you visit right before the church closes like we did and have the stairs pretty much to yourself, you could probably take your time to get to the top.  It was one of my favorite things that I did in Copenhagen, so I highly recommend you get over your fear and go for it if you can.

Along the way up the countless steps there were some interesting sights to say the least to keep you occupied.

First,  a few jailed stone cherubs. This fellow was about five feet tall, so he was pretty impressive:

fullsizeoutput_3ddc

An incredible mess of gears with a Ferdinand the IV emblem on it.  I’m not sure what this was for (perhaps for the clock on the bell tower?), but it was very interesting:

fullsizeoutput_3dde

A fluorescent array of teacups were also seen on the way up on a large shell-type display.  Either that or somebody had a wild tea party the night before and left their dishes:

fullsizeoutput_3ddf
Enter a caption

Before you enter the outside steps there is a large carillon, which is musical instrument consisting of a number of bronze bells, housed in the tower.  We heard the bells chiming as we ascended and it was quite eery.

A few of the carillon bells in the church’s bell tower.

I found this church extremely inspiring thus I dedicated the whole post to it. I didn’t even see the incredible organ inside because the building was closing so we had to rush to the top then leave.

fullsizeoutput_3dd9
Shadows cast a eery picture on the beautiful Vor Frelsers Kirke in Copenhagen.

The photo below is Mike and I at the top of the tower with the incredible view of Copenhagen below us. If you visit Copenhagen, climb your way up to the top and be inspired.

The view at the top of Vor Frelsers Kirke.