Friday, February 04, 2011

Tønder, a lively Market Town in Sønderjylland

lambs in the marsh, the dikes in the background

Another town in Sønderjylland is Tønder, ( Sønderjylland is the old borderland to Germany, please read the description in the link. North of Sønderjylland is South Jutland!) The market town Tønder is placed in the southwestern part of Sønderjylland, 80 km south of Esbjerg and 40 km southwest of Aabenraa. It has ab. 8.200 inhabitants. 

Tønder started originally at a ford across Vidåen-river, where the heaths meet the marshland. The town is placed only 1-5 meter above sea level. East of the town is the marsh replaced with meadows and fields. The marsh west of town is reclaimed and protected by large dikes. Tønder was through centuries an important harbour. In the Middle Ages they sailed along the Vidåen-river up to Tønder, but the diking of the marsh and a regulation of the river cut off the connection to the sea already in the 1600s.

Tønder has had municipal rights since 1243 and was through centuries an important harbour, although the sea is about 12 km from the edge of the town. The name Tønder is of unknown origin, but is mentioned for the first time in 1130, when the Arabian geographer al-drisi describes the town Tundira as an anchorage "protected against all winds and surrounded by buildings". The first beginning of the town was possibly at that time, and it was then a harbour-place of the town Møgeltønder, which probably is older. The city-seal with a ship from the 1200s shows that Tønder originally was a shipping-town, and the seal still looks like that, althought there is now 12 km to the sea.

Tønder got its municipal rights in 1243 from hertug (duke) Abel. In the 1200s the castle Tønderhus was built, and it played an important role in the eternal feud between the duke, the Holstein grafs and the Danish king, until it was demolished in 1750.


A dominating element in Tønder are the bays, the street-doors and portals. A very used door-type are the double panelled doors, which especially in the late half of the 1700s were equipped with monumental portals. There are several Baroque-portals with Rococo-doors. In the Dike-count's listed house from 1777 in the middle of the city is a magnificent Rococo-portal. In a fine Patrician building nearby from 1794 , marked by the Renaissance, is an impressive door-section in Louis-Seize-style.


Tønder Museum is placed upon the old castle-bank  together with Sønderjylland's Art Museum. The gate house of a demolished Tønder-house is a part of the building. The museum has a large collection of arts and crafts, silver, lace, tiles and furniture from West Schleswig.The art collection at the art museum are works by Danish surrealist painters and Nordic pictorial art from the 20th century.At the same address is the old water tower with an exhibition of furniture by the Danish architect Hans J. Wegener,who was born in Tønder.


A pretty restored gable house from 1672 is now a branch of Tønder Museum, which among other things has exhibitions about lace. In the summer season are often working lace makers in the old house.

The Zeppelin-Museum informs about the German base during WWI with exhibitions from the dramatic period, where Tønder was the homestead of northern  Europe's largest military airship-base.


Upon the city-square is the oldest building in town, the Klosterbaker's House, which is a grand late Gothic gable house from about 1519. Here is also an old inn named "Humlekærren". Upon the square is a copy of the only preserved monument of infamy in Denmark, a socalled kagmand. The kage was a medieval means of punishment. People were tied or chained and whipped, if they had done something wrong. The two meter tall wooden figure stands with a whip and a sword for fear and warning.The original figure is at Tønder Museum.

Wool Street


The monument of infamy at the square.

The house from ab. 1519

Tønder is a very lively town with lots of cafés and restaurants and with many shops and special boutiques. the town is close to Germany and there are many tourists from near and far coming here. a veru cosy town to visit and then there is the vast marshland with a rich birdlife for people who are interested in this.

The old pharmacy was built in 1670 by mayor and Dike-count Johann Preuss. Here was established a pharmacy in 1697 and a winestube (serving wine), which at that time was almost the same. The entrance is equipped with a fine Baroque-portal in sandstone. Tønder Kristkirke was built in 1592 as a replacement of the medieval city church Sct. Nicolai. The strange tower from 1520 has a tall lantern-spire. The interior is richly decorated. Near the church is the old Latin-school from 1612. An old merchant house from1729 is a splendid two-storeys gable-house with bays, named "Soli Deo Gloria". A street called Uldgade (wool-street)  might be the most picturesque street in Tønder with low gable-houses with small bays, small-paned windows and finely carved doors. In this street and in some nearby fine little streeets lived workmen and humble folk

the old pharmacy

The Lace.
Tønder is known for its fine lace, in Denmark we talk about the Tønder-lace (Tønder-kniplinger) and know exactly what fine quality it is. Each year is a lace-festival. Lace makers from all over the world meet to take part in workshops, goto exhibitions or just have a talk about the lace-work. There are many lace-exhibitions in the inner town.

lace-working board

Source: Potitikens Store Danmarksbog 2003; Danmarks Købstæder, 2000.

photo Tønder 2002 & 2007: grethe bachmann


Teresa Evangeline said...

I am always amazed by and appreciative of hand work, such as lace making. I have never developed the patience required. Perhaps I will yet... but it's not looking good. :)

Thyra said...

Hej Teresa, my mother's sister was doing lace, and it was so amazing to see how she worked with alle these wooden-pieces on the board, very quickly - and I thought it was impressive how she made lace from complicated patterns. I have not had the patience for such hand work. It was easier to do something with a piece of paper and some water colors!