Roskilde – Domkirke

Roskilde is a small city approximately twenty minutes by train from Copenhagen. It was founded in 980 by Harold Bluetooth and served as a very important site during the Viking era. Today it is home to many historic sites and museums including the Unesco World Heritage Listed Domkirke (Cathedral) and the Viking Ship Museum. It is quite a lovely day trip from Copenhagen and a great place to visit if you are interested in anything Viking-related.

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In 2012, the Domkirke was inscribed on the World Heritage List as a cultural site. According to Unesco, its significance is due to the following:

“Roskilde Cathedral is an outstanding example of the early use of brick in the construction of large religious buildings in Northern Europe. Because of the successive addition of chapels and porches to commemorate Danish royalty since the 16th century, it is also an exceptional example of the evolution of European architectural styles in a single structure.” (Unesco, Roskilde Cathedral, 2012)

The site meets two of the ten criterion for world heritage listing. For those of you unaware of these criteria follow this link for more information: http://whc.unesco.org/en/criteria/.

1. Criterion ii – to exhibit an important interchange of human values, over a span of time or within a cultural area of the world, on developments in architecture or technology, monumental arts, town-planning or landscape design.

A limestone version of the Cathedral was completed in 1080. Almost a century later, the lime was replaced by red bricks that still exist today. It is considered to have had a great influence on the spread of brick in Northern Europe during this time period.

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2. Criterion iv -to be an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates (a) significant stage(s) in human history.

From 1080 onwards the Cathedral was adapted to suit various architectural styles. In particular, porches have been added to the Cathedral that served as mausoleums for the Danish royal family. Speaking of which, there are 39 kings and queens of Denmark buried within the Cathedral’s walls. Eerily enough, preparations have recently been completed for the death of the current queen, Margrethe II.

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On entering the Cathedral we found the front-of-house staff to be very welcoming and helpful. We were guided briefly around the Cathedral stopping to see a 16th century clock strike the hour. The clock depicts St Michael slaying the dragon and still works on its original mechanism! After wandering around and exploring the crypts we went upstairs to the small museum. We didn’t spend long inside, it wasn’t very enticing. There were some very nice models of the Cathedral including one showing the various additions to the Cathedral over time.

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You can definitely appreciate why it has been inscribed on the World Heritage List. I usually don’t go into cathedrals anymore because I reached my limit a few years ago. I made an exception considering it is World Heritage Listed and such an important site when considering the royal history of Denmark.

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