Roskilde Cathedral and the Royal Tombs

Part 1. Sarcophagi, Effigies and Gravestones

This article is under the subject “culture”. Learning about history allows us to understand how moral standards evolved and how traditions were put into practice.

“We only live once”. This is what every wise man would say. But we can only do much in our lifetime. To be able to do the things we enjoy and holding on to the values we believe are important is already a fulfillment. 

the pulpit
The Organ a.ka. Raphaëlis Organ

My fascination with art and history has led me to the discovery of the beautifully designed coffins and tombs inside a Christian church in Roskilde. One of the things that I find very interesting aside from the beautiful architecture using bricks and marble are a few stories behind every leadership of the kings and queens. I have gathered some of the most important information about both the cathedral and the life of kings and queens.

The King’s Door (Only the royalties can pass through it)

Forty kings and queens are thought to rest here – 37 graves are known with certainty. Altogether, there are more than 1000 graves in the church.” 

Guide to Roskilde Cathedral

Margrete 1. founded the Kalmar Union between Denmark, Norway and Sweden

  • 1376-1412 Denmark
  • 1380-1412 Norway
  • 1389-1412 Sweden

Kalmar Union

A Royal Union between the three kingdoms of Denmark, Norway and Sweden from 1397 – 1523. Erik of Pomerania was crowned king of three kingdoms


Quote. “Roskilde Cathedral is Denmark’s royal burial church, architecture of international class and an active parish church. The Cathedral has been selected by UNESCO as a site of outstanding universal value. Here are soaring vaults and a majestic atmosphere. According to the chronicle from the 1000s, King Harold Bluetooth built a wooden church in Roskilde. In 1022, Roskilde received its first bishop. About 1080, a new church was built in travertine where the present brick church now stands.” Quote. – Guide to Roskilde Cathedral

The portrait of Margrete 1.

It unfortunately lacks some description details. Therefore, it “may not” be the same face features as she was in real life.

-Photo (portrait) from the archives of The Royal Danish Library

Margrete 1. was the youngest daughter of Valdemar and Helvig, who exercised governmental power in Denmark, Norway and Sweden from 1376 – 1412. Her brother Christopher was supposed to reign, but died early at the age of 22. Since his death, the subsequent should take over.

Source: Danmarks historien

“The Cathedral was built about 1200 and was the first Gothic edifice in Scandinavia. The Gothic pointed arches, vaulted ceilings and exterior buttresses were an architectural innovation that enabled the construction of light and lofty churches with large windows.“-RD

Note that Roskilde is not the oldest church in Denmark. The first two oldest churches in Denmark are Sorø Klosterkirke and Saint Bendt’s Church

Sorø Klosterkirke is a church located in the Danish town of Sorø. It was founded by Danish archbishop Absalon and built by Cistercians in the period from 1161 to 1201. It is made of red brick, which was a new material for the time. It is built similar style to the Abbey of Fontenay.-WikiPedia

St. Bendt’s Church in Ringsted

It refers to Benedict of Nurcia, who was the founder of the Benedictine order of monks. A former Benedictine monastery (klosterkirke). It was burnt down in the 18th century and replaced a travertine church from about 1080. This is where Valdemar The Great (Valdemar Den Store) was buried together with about 21 kings and queens and some noblemen between 1130 – 1331.

I recorded a video of my visit in the church. It will be published soon.

The Pulpit. Where the priest stands and deliver a sermon.

The clock. It is indeed very unique.

Every quarter, the figure Kirsten Kimer strikes the little bell.Every hour, St. George kills the dragon; it lets out a death wail, and the figure Per Døver then strikes the big bell.

Listen to the recording (opens a new link)

I recommend allocating at least two full hours inside the church/museum to appreciate the tour of the workmanship of the artists’. They also offer guided tours both in english and danish.

The entrance fee is required when entering for the purpose of investing in communication, research and preservation of the Cathedral’s cultural heritage for all guests. It is free for children and young people under 18 years old. Buying “årskort” will give you a year-round free entrance and possible to take a person with you who are physically impaired “ledsager”.

Roskilde Cathedral, which with its spiers strives towards the sky, bears the history of the development of architecture and the life and death of kings.

Roskilde Domkirke

The church was originally catholic, but since the Reformation in 1536, it has been Lutheran. The king being the head of the church and the priests are of high importance.

The Altarpiece from the 1560’s

By taking a closer look into the details of the 21 sections of the altar, you will be able to see the how the artists’ goal tried to depict the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus.

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