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Roskilde Cathedral and Viking Museum

Roskilde Cathedral and Viking Museum

Roskilde

Roskilde is 35 kilometres from Copenhagen and takes around 35 mins to reach by train from the Copenhagen’s central station.  A charming small coastal town, it was the original capital of Denmark up until 1443.

Sue and Rick, our old friends, from Aberdeen University came to visit us recently. Rick had been in Denmark, years earlier, as part of his college course. One of the things he remembered from that trip was that five Viking ships had fairly recently been discovered in Roskilde and were in the process of being restored.  He was very keen to see what had been achieved in the thirty five odd years since his last visit.

The main attractions in Roskilde are the Viking Museum and Roskilde Cathedral. There is also a major music festival held there every summer. For three days, the youth of Copenhagen decamp en masse to a large muddy field and have a very hygge time.

The Viking Museum

Growing up In Scotland, we learned that Vikings were fierce, scary and unforgiving invaders from Scandinavia. Burning and pillaging their way up and down the coastline of Britain, they struck terror into the villagers who caught sight of their characteristic long boats approaching from the sea. It is hard to reconcile the image of Vikings from over a thousand years ago, with the polite, well mannered Danes of today.

At one stage, part of England was even conquered by Denmark. I was super excited to discover recently that the English King Canute (or Knut) was actually Danish. I always remembered a particular story from school about King Canute. (It was the same simplified version of history books that told me all about Anna Pavlova). Somehow, Canute was cornered into saying he was so powerful he could stop the tide coming in. Naturally he was challenged and brought to the seaside to prove himself. He got a bit wet! There is currently an exhibition about King Canute at the Viking Museum, The Greatest Viking King. Probably best not to mention the whole stopping the waves thing.

The Viking museum in Roskilde is predominantly about Viking ships, no mention of the pillaging! So if you want to find out more about Vikings per se, and their bloody history you have to look elsewhere.The National Museum in Copenhagen has a huge section on Vikings.

Skuldeley

In 1962, five Viking ships were discovered at Skuldeley, in the Roskilde Fjord. They had lain at the bottom of the ford since 1070, when they were deliberately sunk to block access to Roskilde from the sea. The Museum is mainly built around the excavated remains of the five ships, which have now been pieced together from the pieces found on the seabed.

reconstructed boat at viking museum in Roskilde
reconstructed boat at viking museum in Roskilde

They are on display in one large room, against a backdrop of the fabulous Danish coastline.

RECONSTRUCTED VIKING LONGBOAT WITH DANISH COAST IN THE BACKGROUND
RECONSTRUCTED VIKING LONGBOAT WITH DANISH COAST IN THE BACKGROUND

Outside, in the shipyard,  you can explore many other different boats, Some are originals, gathered from all over Scandinavia, and others are reconstructions, built at the museum itself.

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The new ships are constructed using traditional Viking methods. It is possible to get up close and personal and be involved in the process, as the shipyard offers hands on workshops.

Rick inspecting some boat building work!
Rick inspecting some boat building work!

Most of the excitement take place during the summer and school breaks. They offer courses on things like how to build and sail a viking. There are also children’s  activities. When we were there in October there was not a lot going on. However we could still walk around outside and read all the information about types of wood and the various tools that would have been used.

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During the summer a few of the ships are taken out on long sea voyages. A chance for to experience first hand the  conditions during the age of the Vikings. As the boats lie low in the water it is not for the fainthearted!

small traditional boat at Roskilde Viking Museum
small traditional boat at Roskilde Viking Museum

When the shipyard was being built, they discovered a further nine Viking boats, which are now slowly being excavated.

For full details of opening times and fun activities for adults and children check the website

The museum is a short walk from the town centre. On the way back we stopped at lovely little restaurant called Pipershus. It offers traditional Danish food and on a good day views of the Fjord.

Photo from Pipershus website
Photo from Pipershus website

Roskilde Cathedral

Roskilde Cathedral
Roskilde Cathedral

Since I have come to live in Copenhagen I have trained to be a tour guide. It suits my personality very well. I love learning, especially history, and I love holding court and making people listen to everything I have to say! So it is kind of perfect.

I have found out about how Denmark has existed as a country since Gorm the Gammel and his son Harald Bluetooth (yes, like in the bluetooth speakers!) converted to Christianity in 958AD.  The date is known because Denmark, Gorm and Harald are all mentioned in the Jelling Stones, two large rune covered stones found in the town of Jelling. So Jelling was really the first capital of Denmark.

However, Harald Bluetooth moved the capital  to Roskilde. There has been a church or chapel on the site of what is now Roskilde Cathedral since that time. Harald  is supposedly buried somewhere in the grounds although no remains have been found.

The present Cathedral dates back to 1170 and is the first example of a French inspired Gothic brick Cathedral.

Roskilde Cathedral
Roskilde Cathedral

The kings and queens of Denmark have always been buried there. The oldest known remains, those of  Margrethe I (d. 1412), are immediately behind the high altar. Over the years additional chapels have been added onto the original building to hold the cask, coffins and sarcopphicases of Danish royalty.

The styles vary enormously.  The most ornate chapel is definaately that of our good friend Christian IVth.

Christian IV Chapel at Roskilde Cathedral
Christian IV Chapel at Roskilde Cathedral

Some are much simpler in keeping with the Lutheran style.

Roskilde Cathedral
Roskilde Cathedral Christian VII

As I have learnt so much about Denmark’s history, I found the Cathedral incredibly interesting. I saw the burial sites of all the kings I had read about. Even without a detailed knowledge, it is impossible not to feel the incredible sense of history when you walk around.

Queen Margrethe II( present queen of Denmark)

The church was originally consecrated as a Catholic Church, but since the reformation, around 400 hundred years ago, is now Lutheran. One of the chapels, St Bridget’s chapel, holds the oldest gravestone dating back to c1250 together with Catholic furniture which is no longer required.

It has also been chosen by the present Queen as the site of her final resting place. It now contains a double sarcophagus, created by artist Bjørn Nørgaardof, for herself and her Prince Consort.

Sadly her consort,  Prince Henrik, who died on Valentine’s day announced just before his death, that he did not wish to be buried next to the Queen. It seems he resented being only a Prince and not a King. Following his funeral he was cremated and his ashes scattered at sea. Was a sad day in Denmark.

The Cathedral is open to the public most days but check for closing times which vary according to the season

Fifi and Hop
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5 thoughts on “Roskilde Cathedral and Viking Museum”

  • Loved the history lesson! All I could think of was – imagine if your job was piecing together the viking ships. What a fascinating thing to do. I haven’t been to Denmark, but it’s certainly on my list. Thanks for linking up with #farawayfiles

    • I know I seem to be less travel, more lecture. My blog has morphed from food into anything that interests me or I feel the world should know!. I think my tastes might be a little obscure for most. Copenhagen is truly wonderful. If you ever get here I can show you around. Looking for ways to integrate into life here I became a tour guide and love walking through Copenhagen sharing my knowledge of the city. Also am I right in thinking you are on the east coast. I lived in Darien, recognize the comments about trees down everywhere!

  • We went here a few years ago it was truly fascinating and well worth a day trip from Copenhagen! Thanks for bringing back some great memories. #FarawayFiles

  • It’s been a bit since we’ve wandered the cute cobblestones streets of Roskilde, time for a revisit. I thought the Viking museum was quite well done and the dome impressive! I’m thinking a day out this April when my mom comes for a return trip to Denmark, it’s a must do! Great post, thanks for sharing with #FarawayFiles

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