Monday, April 07, 2008
JELLING - and Denmark's Birth Certificate
Denmark's Birth Certificate
With the hills, the church and the rune stones Jelling was not just meant to be a royal mausoleum but quite distinctly also meant to be a powerful center of the Danish kingdom.
Two very special rune stones stand outside the church in Jelling church in the middle of the two biggest grave hills in Denmark. The big stone, Jellingstenen or Harald's sten, is known as Denmark's birth certificate and is the most magnificent runic memory of Denmark. It is dated to a time between Harald's baptism ab. 965 and his death, latest in 987. Upon the broad side of the three-sided big Jellingstone is an inscription which takes up an exceptional position because of the horizontal runes. The inscription is sourrounded by winding bands. The words from Harald himself are:
'Kong Harald bød gøre disse kumler efter Gorm sin fader og efter Thyra sin moder, den Harald, som vandt sig hele Danmark og Norge og gjorde danerne kristne'.
King Haraldr ordered this monument made in memory of Gormr, his father, and in memory of Thyrvé, his mother; that Haraldr who won for himself all of Denmark and Norway and made the Danes Christian." (Rundata, DR 42)
The lion and the snake
The ornamental and figurative style makes the Jellingstone unique in the Scandinavian find from the Viking period. The winding style of the lion and the snake is the same early Jelling style as upon the little silver cup from the North hill. The ornamentation indicates that it might have been executed by a North English or Irish visual artist.
(The Silver Cup see my blog):
Ancient Danish Families June 2006 /article Preface Gorm & Thyra).
Christ with ornaments.
On the third side is Christ without a cross surrounded by the typical winding bands. The figures are on all three sides carved in low relief and were probably painted from the beginning of their existence. The Christ figure is the earliest known of the North.
The earliest mention of Danmark.
In the Anglo-Saxon king Alfred the Great's prologue to Orosius' World's History the name Danmark (Denemearcan) is mentioned for the first time in the World's Literature. It started as a local name Danernes Mark ,which was used and contracted as Danmark before year 900. Considering king Alfred's paper the name Danmark must have been in use already before 900. Gorm's stone has the earliest (in Denmark) recorded use of the name Danmark. The stone is raised afterGorm became king in 934 and before his death in 958. The stone is raised after Thyra's death, and we do not know her date of death.
Gorm's memory of Thyra
kurmr kunukr karthi kubl thusi aft thurui kunu sina tanmakar but
Gorm konge gjorde kumler disse efter Thyra kone sin danmarks bod
'King Gorm made this monument in memory of Thyra, his wife, Denmark's salvation'.
The little stone was in year 1600 used as a bench in the porch of the church, but was in 1639 placed close to the big stone.
The stones are strongly identified with the creation of Denmark as a nation state.
Stones by the North hill from the Stone Ship System
In the heart of the North hill was a small Bronze Age hill, exactly at the northern point of a huge stone ship system which southern point ends under the South hill. The northern part of this stone ship system must however have been levelled in the Viking period simultaneous with the extension of the earlier hill, which was then covered in turf. Inside the hill was built a burial chamber with ceiling, wall and floor of wood. The dendrochronological test datings of the chamber have proved that the wood was cut down in 958-959. This is supposedly the time for both the building of the chamber and for king Gorm's year of death. The south hill is supposedly contemporary.
Jelling church and a small corner of the North hill
Jelling church was built ab. year 1100, but before this three succeeding wooden churches were placed here according to excavations in 1976-79. The earliest church from Harald Bluetooth's time was a rather big church, even bigger than other early wooden churches in Scandinavia at that time - a size fitting for a royal church building. The wooden church in Jelling might have been larger than any earlier Danish building and with its forest of columns more magnificent too. The groundplan was influenced by contemporary German churches. There was probably an influence from the palaces in Aachen and Ingelheim.
Gorms burial place is under the short silver bands
It is rather remarkable that under the traces of the wooden churches in the east was a burial chamber like the one in the North hill, and in the room were bones from a man , about 40-50 years of age and about 1.72 m tall. After the examination it was declared that he 'like most middle-aged Danes suffered from osteoarthritis in the bottom part of the spinal column'.
Unfortunately the chamber was broken up and emptied in ancient time. Only little was left, biut it shows after all that the grave furniture must have been very rich. Traces of gold thread which came from fabrics of the highest quality were found together with two silver strap plates (remendebeslag = riding equipment) In the Jelling style like the silver cup from the North hill. When the chamber was cleared they overlooked the little silver cup, which is now at Jelling Museum opposite the church. Unfortunately the Bronze Age hill was disturbed and robbed in the early Middle Ages.
Harald had probably after his christening decided that his father necessarily had to be moved from his heathen grave to a grave in a Christian church. Thyra's burial place is still a big mystery.
Jelling church interior, the frescoes were damaged and have been copied by a modern painter.
On December 3rd in 2000 the Millenium was celebrated in Jelling church after a new and comprehensive decoration.
Jelling Museum opposite the church.
The stone mason and rune carver Erik the Red (Erik Sandquist) has carved a new rune stone and a landmark for Kongernes Jelling, the museum and communication center in Jelling. He says that he felt it a great honour to be allowed to make this stone. It took him 350 hours to carve the 3000 kilo granite block and he made it in the Mammen style with winding dragons and ornamentation. There are six succeeding styles: 1) Oseberg, 2) Borre, 3) Mammen, 4) Jelling, 5) Ringerike, 6) Urness. The styles begin about year 800 and succeed one another for the next 400 years. They are named after the geographical places where the biggest and most important finds have been made.
A big granite stone is now changed into a runestone of the Present. It has four sides, one with the Tree of Life, one with a mask, one with birds and one with a runic text. It is one of Erik's biggests works - and it is a masterpiece. The ornaments are painted in strong old viking colours . The background of the granite stone is not painted, since it was important to see that this was a real granite stone and not a plastic one.
Erik the Red's runic text:
Tyd du tidernes runer
I Kongernes Jelling
Erik huggede dette kuml.
Interpret the runes of times
in Jelling of the Kings
Erik carved this stone.
Past and Present in Jelling, the North Hill and a Jet.
Politikens Danmarkshistorie, bd. 3, Da Danmark blev Danmark, Peter Sawyer
Exploring the World of the Vikings , Richard Hall
Fortidsminder i Danmark, Henning Dehn-Nielsen
Fortidens Jelling, Runemesteren Erik den Røde
photo 060408: grethe bachmann, Jelling, Southeast Jutland