Friday, December 30, 2011

Viking Church at Moesgård Museum, Århus

The Vikings
A Viking Church

photo 1

Historians built in 1997 at Moesgård in Århus a 9,5 m long and 4,5 m broad stave church in oak with dragon heads on the gables and Viking-windings under the roof. The starting point for the building of this church were traces of postholes and floor layers from the original wooden church in Hørning close to Randers, but it was also inspired based on experiences from archaeological excavations in various places of the country, where were found floor layers and postholes from Nordic stave churches. From the church in Hørning comes the famous Hørning plank with the traditional Viking-windings. These windings are copied under the roof of the Viking church. The plank is dated to ab. 1066, in the transition time between the Viking period and the Middle Ages.
Viking-windings from Hørning-plank


decoration of portal


the bronze bell

At the excavation in Hørning were also found traces from a bell tower, and a reconstruction was built beside the church  in 2003-2004.  Moesgård Museum and Århus University carried through an experimental-archaeological project in 2005 to cast a bronze bell for the bell tower after a method, which was described in the 1100s by a medieval monk Theophilus. The bell is now in the bell tower.

History in short:
In 822 the pope had ordered the archbishop of Reims, Ebbo, to preach for the heathen Danes -  and around 826 arrived the missonary Ansgar. But both Ebbo and Ansgar were driven out of the country in 827. Ansgar did not give up. In 845 -  now as bishop of Hamburg - he was by king Horik allowed to build a wooden church in Hedeby, but it was destroyed in 854 when king Horik was killed in a battle. The church reopened in the 860s, and Ansgar established another wooden church in the important trade town Ribe.

The impious Vikings were not easy to persuade to give up their old gods. Christianity came gradually and slowly. Missionaries swarmed into the country from both Germany and England. King Harald was baptized in 960 -  and  Denmark was officially christianized ab. 965. The first churches in Denmark looked quite different from what we know today. Almost all churches from before 1050 were built in wood,  decorated with fine patterns, the wellknown traditional style of the Vikings. The construction was the simple stave church with a free-standing bell tower. The first wooden churches appeared in towns and villages where Christianity was gaining ground. The landlords built churches inside the walls surrounding their farms to show their proud ownership. Together with the church emerged a new holy place, the church yard. Christians had to be buried in consecrated soil if they wanted to go to heaven - while people who had broken the law were buried outside the church yard.

photo 2
Some stave churches were built upon ancient holy places like a church in Hørning (Randers district), which was built upon a grave hill, containing a rich grave of a prominent Viking woman who had died just before the church was built. The above mentioned Hørning-plank is a piece of the hammerbånd (edge decoration) from the ancient wooden church. The wooden churches did not live for long in the humid Danish climate. Archaeological examinations have proved that they were often renewed once or twice, but during the 1100s and 1200s they were replaced by stone churches in the parishes. The original stave churches still exist in a few places in Norway. None of the earliest Danish wooden churches are left, but the stave church at Moesgård gives a qualified bid on the look of a Viking church.

A new Viking church at Bork Viking Havn in southwest Jutland is the second reconstruction of a Viking church in Denmark. In this church is a woodcut of a one eyed god, who might be the Nordic god, Odin. The woodcut is a copy from an original stave church from that period.

section of Moesgaard

Moesgård Museum,Danmarks Kirker, Politikens Danmarkshistorie

photo 26 December 2011:
church nr. 1 and 2:  stig bachman nielsen,; other photos: grethe bachmann


Out on the prairie said...

I have read about a Viking rune stone in Love, Olklahoma. Kind of ruins who discovered this area 1st.

Thyra said...

Hello Steve, there is information about the Kensington stone on wikipedia.
Happy New Year!
Grethe ´)