Roskilde Cathedral is a worthwhile day trip from Copenhagen, just a half-hour journey west by train. Roskilde is an ancient city and the former Danish capital, and its 12th-century cathedral is filled with the tombs of Danish royals.
History of Roskilde Domkirke
The Domkirke of Roskilde was founded by Bishop Absalon in 1170 on the site of a wooden church that had been erected by Harold Bluetooth around 980.
The cathedral was completed in the 14th century but additions and modifications were made until as recently as the 20th century. The bulk of the cathedral was built around 1280.
The cathedral has been used as a royal mausoleum since the 15th century. Roskilde Cathedral was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1995, declaring it "in many ways the most important ecclesiastical building in Denmark."
What to See at Roskilde Domkirke
Roskilde Cathedral incorporates a variety of architectural styles, but is predominantly influenced by the cathedrals of northern France, unlike most other Danish churches. It is the oldest Gothic building in Denmark but also contains some earlier Romanesque parts. It is was built just after bricks began to be made in Denmark and contains about 3 million bricks.
Inside, it is filled with interesting decorations and features but is best known for its huge collection of Danish royal tombs - those of 21 kings and 18 queens in four large royal chapels. The most impressive of these chapels is that of King Christian IV. Originally quite austere, it was decorated in the 19th-century Romantic style with bronze statues, huge frescoes and paintings of scenes from his life.
The Chapels of St. Birgitte and St. Andrew on the north side are decorated with frescoes dating from 1511. St. Birgitte's Chapel has depictions of the church fathers Augustine, Jerome, Gregory and Ambrose surrounded by foliage on the arch. Further down are portraits of St. Birgitte of Vadstena and the patron saint of the cathedral, Pope Lucius, astride a dragon. St. Andrew's Chapel contains a large illustration of the beheading of John the Baptist.
The wooden choir stalls date from 1420 and are carved with reliefs above the stalls depicting scenes from Creation to the Last Judgment. On the south side are scenes from the Old Testament; on the north are illustrations from the New Testament.
The impressive triptych altarpiece was made in Antwerp around 1560.
Over the entrance to the Domkirke is an animated medieval clock that is worth trying to visit when it strikes the hour. St. Jørgen runs out on his horse to slay the dragon; the hour is marked by the creature's squeal of death.
The small cathedral museum is housed upstairs in the Great Hall and chronicles the 1000-year history of the Domkirke. Among the exhibits is a replica of Queen Margarethe I's golden gown.
Quick Facts on Roskilde Domkirke
|Visitor and Contact Information|
|Coordinates:||55.642670° N, 12.079951° E|
|Lodging:||View hotels near Roskilde Domkirke|
- Rough Guide Scandanavia 7 (April 2006).
- Roskilde Cathedral - official website
- Advisory Body Evaluation (PDF) - UNESCO World Heritage
- Photos of Roskilde Domkirke - here on Sacred Destinations
Map of Roskilde Domkirke
Below is a location map and aerial view of Roskilde Domkirke. Using the buttons on the left (or the wheel on your mouse), you can zoom in for a closer look, or zoom out to get your bearings. To move around, click and drag the map with your mouse.