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Explore a masterpiece

Experience a magnificent church and an architectural masterpiece. 1000 years of Danish history are gathered here under beautifully decorated vaults and in dark crypts. Here 39 kings and queens of Denmark lie buried. The cathedral is a UNESCO world heritage site.

 

 

Christian Vikings 

For more than 1000 years there have been churches on the spot where the cathedral now stands. The first church on the site was built by Harold Bluetooth who died around 985 and, according to the historian Adam of Bremen, is “buried in the town of Roskilde, in the church he himself built to the honour of the Holy Trinity”. Harold Bluetooth is considered as the first of the Danish viking kings to truly convert to Christianity. Harolds church was made of wood and was probably located on the same spot as the present day cathedral. No traces of Harold’s church have ever been found.  
Harolds church was replaced sometime in the 1000s by a stone church built by King Canute’s sister Estrid from a penance she received after the king had Estrid’s husband Ulf Jarl murdered. Around 1080 a new church was consecrated, built by bishop Svend Normand (bishop 1074-1088). On the northern side was a three-winged building where the priests lived. The entire complex was built of travertine, a calcareous tufa stone.

 

A Gothic cathedral in brick
The present brick church was started in the 1170s under bishop Absalon (biskop 1158-1201). The art of brick making had just been introduced into Denmark at the time. The cathedral is built along the lines of French cathedrals in a transitional style between Romanesque and Gothic, but the building has a domestic character through the choice of materials and is deeply influenced by local traditions in the design of the individual building details. 

The construction of the cathedral lasted for more than 100 years and considerable changes were made underway, the greatest during the first 30 years, shortly before and after 1200.  At all events Roskilde Cathedral is one of the earliest examples of French-inspired Gothic brick architecture, and the cathedral is considered as the first gothic church building in Scandinavia, and the construction had a profound influence on the spread of bricks as a building material.  

The body of the building was completed in 1280 and since then the cathedral has been extended with a number of chapels and porches through the years, right up to the construction of King Frederik 9’s burial place to the northwest of the cathedral in 1985.

A royal burial church
The cathedral houses the remains of 39 Danish kings and queens. After the death of Sweyn Estridsen (1086), Danish royals were burried at different locations. This changed in 1413, when the Bishop of Roskilde acting on royal orders, moved the remains of queen Margrete 1. from Sorø to Roskilde, shortly after her death. Her reburial at Roskilde Cathedral was part of a plan to establish Roskilde as the burial church for the kings and queens of the Union of Calmar. The Union of Calmar was the work of Magrete 1. who unified the three Nordic countries of Denmark, Norway and Sweden under Danish rule. Apart from a few exceptions all Danish regents have since been buried in Roskilde Cathedral, making Roskilde Cathedral the church in the world with most royal graves, a world record.