County: Roskilde amt.
Altitude: sea level. Population: 50,000.
Postal code: DK-4000. Telephone code: 03.
CAMP SITE. Vigen Strandpark Camping, 4 km (2 miles) N of Roskilde on A6.
RESTAURANTS. Byparken, Frederiksborgvej; Palae, Staendertovet 8; Toppen, Bymarken 37; Club 42, Skomagergade 42.
To the NW of and parallel to Bergmannsgata, in Kjerkgata, is the church (1784), once the only stone building in the town. It is the symbol of Roros and can be seen for miles around. It has
EVENTS. Roskilde Festival, the largest festival of pop, jazz and folk music in N (last weekend in June); flea-market in Staendertorv on Saturdays.
SPORTS and RECREATION. Canoe trips in Roskildefjord and Isefjord (scope for a variety of long trips); sailing club, many moorings for yachts in Roskildefjord.
The Danish town of Roskilde lies 30 km (20 miles) from Copenhagen on the Roskildefjord, which cuts deep into the island of Zealand. During the Middle Ages it was a royal residence, and the Cathedral contains the remains of 38 Danish kings. It is now the largest county town on Zealand and has a University.
Roskilde can be reached from Copenhagen either by road or rail in under half an hour. Every visitor should see this fine old town.
Roskilde Cathedral end on the plan of a Romanesque basilica with transepts, but this plan was modified about 1200 under the influence of North French Gothic. The church, in red brick, thus shows a mingling of Romanesque and Gothic architecture, and the exterior
HISTORY. Roskilde is one of the oldest towns in Denmark. As early as 960 there was a wooden church here, on the northern edge of the terrace from which the land slopes down to the fjord. The church was founded, it is believed, by Harald Bluetooth, who converted the Danes to Christianity. About 1030, the wooden church was rebuilt in stone. In the 11th c. Roskilde was a royal and episcopal residence, and in the following century it enjoyed its period of greatest prosperity. It was principally an ecclesiastical area, possessing great power and wealth, particularly after King Valdemar brought about the appointment as bishop of a young, Paris-educated priest the great Bishop Absalon. In 1168, Valdemar presented his favourite with the town and harbour of Havn, and Absalon thus became the real founder of Copenhagen, then a fishing village of no consequence. Thereafter the focus of power was in Roskilde. The situation changed, however, at the Reformation. Eleven parish churches and all the town’s religious houses were closed, and the economic and intellectual life of Roskilde declined. The town later recovered some importance, and in 1658, the peace treaty between Denmark and Sweden was signed in Roskilde Cathedral. By this treaty Denmark lost all its possessions beyond the Kattegat and the Oresund. Much ofthe old town was destroyed in a series of fires during the 1 8th c. The economic revival of Roskilde began only in the mid 1 9th c. after the construction of a railway line from Copenhagen. Roskilde is now one of the major industrial, educational and scientific areas of Denmark, with the Roskilde University Complex (RUC: social sciences) and an atomic research station at Riso.
SIGHTS. Roskilde has one of Denmark’s great national monuments, the Cathedral of St Luke. This imposing structure, standing on higher ground above the fjord, dates from the time of Bishop Absalon and was begun about 1170. It occupies the site of three earlier churches, including the wooden church built by King Harald Bluetooth. The building of Bishop Absalon’s cathedral began at the E is further altered by the addition of several funerary chapels. For the last 400 years, the Cathedral has been the burial-place of Danish kings and queens. The two W towers were added in the 1 4th c. and their slender spires, sheathed in copper, date from 1 635-6. The Royal Doorway between the towers is opened only for royal funerals; visitors enter by the S doorway.
The INTERIOR, with lateral aisles flanking the nave, is particularly notable for the magnificent mid-1 5th c. carvedchoir-stals, above which are reliefs of scenes from the Old Testament (S side) and New Testament (N side). An interesting feature ofthe New Testament series is the representation of the Ascension: the footprints left by Christ can be seen on the ground, and his legs are still visible at the top of the scene. The large carved and gilded altar screen on the high altar, made in Antwerp in the 1 6th cž was originally intended for the chapel in Frederiksborg Castle, but was presented to Roskilde by Christian IV. The altar has been excellently restored after a fire in 1 968. In the central chapel of the three, in the N aisle, is an early
1 6th c. figure of St John. Also in the N aisle is the gallery with the royal throne, with rich 17th c. decoration. Other noteworthy items are the pulpit (of sandstone, alabaster, marble and black limestone) and the font (1 602).
In the funerary chapels built on to the Cathedral and entered from the aisles are the tombs of 38 Danish monarchs, from Margaret I (d. 1412), who united the crowns ofthe three northern kingdoms, to Frederik IX, who was buried here in 1972. These royal tombs provide a unique history of funerary monumental art from the early 1 5th to the 20th c. The finest of the monuments is the recumbent alabaster figure (Gothic) of Queen Margaret, behind the high altar. Christian IV’s chapel, on the N side, with a massive vaulted roof, has wall paintings by Wilhelm Marstrand and a bronze statue of the king by Thorvaldsen. Also on the N side are the chapels of Christian IX, St Birgitte and St Andrew. In the Chapel of the Three Kings, on the S side, is a granite column supporting the vaulting, marked with the height of various kings; the tallest is Christian I, in whose reign the chapel was built a height of 2-10 m (6 ft 1 0 in.), although the king’s skeleton measures only 1 88 m (6 ft 2 in.). Also on the S side are Frederik V’s neo-classical chapel, modelled after the Pantheon in Rome, with a dome and high windows, and the chapterhouse.
Only small parts of the Cathedral’s medieval frescoes have survived.
The Cathedral is linked by Absalon’s Arch (built 1210-20, after Bishop Absalon’s death) with the Palace, formerly the meeting-place of the Estates and now the Bishop’s Palace: an 1 8th c. building with a handsome courtyard and staircase.
In addition to the Cathedral Roskilde also has some of the oldest churches in Denmark, including Vor Frue Kirke (Church of Our Lady) to the S of the old town, with remains of walls belonging to an
11 th c. church. According to the Danish historian, Saxo (d. 1220), it was built about 1 080 by Bishop Sven Normand; the character of the church has been much altered by later restorations. The church of SktJorgensbjerg, outside the old town on a hill near the fjord, has a choir and nave dating from the end of the 11 th the N doorway, now walled up, belongs to an even earlier building, dated by coin finds to 1040. From the hill there is a magnificent view of the sea.
In Skt Olsgade is the Roskilde Museum (traditional costumes, folk art, medieval material). In Frederiksborgvej, the continuation of Skt Olsgade, stands the beautiful St Lawrence’s Church (R.C.).
On the shores of the fjord, to the N of the town, is Roskilde’s second great tourist attraction, the ‘Viking Ships Museum, opened in 1969. It is a working museum”, since the ships on display have not been completely restored; the public can observe work in progress.
The wrecks of five Viking ships were discovered at a narrow passage in Roskildefjord in 1 957. They were brought to the surface in 1 962, and since then have been meticulously pieced together and restored. They had been sunk and covered with stones at some time between 1000 and 1050, to block the fjord and protect the trading town of Roskilde from hostile attack probably by Norwegian Vikings, who were then prowling the coasts of Denmark. The local fishermen had long known of this underground barrier but had believed it to be of much later date: the tradition was that the accumulation of stones covered a ship of the time of Queen Margatet I. It was only when the Danish National Museum carried out underwater excavations that the barrier was found to date from the Viking age and to consist of more than one ship. In 1 962, a cofferdam was built to enclose the site and the five ships were excavated. They were found to comprise broken up into a thousand fragments a deep-sea trading ship (the only one of its kind yet discovered, designed for trade with Britain, Iceland and Greenland); a smaller merchant ship (for sailing on the Baltic, the North Sea and on rivers, with a crew of not more than six men, the cargo being stowed under skins amidships); a warship (long and narrow, powered by sail or by 24 oarsmen); a ferry or fishing boat; and a longship (so long 28m (92 ft) that it was originally thought to be two boats), the dreaded Viking man-of-war, seaworthy yet easy to beach, fast and manoeuvrable in battle. Of this last vessel, only about a fifth was preserved. Although the Viking ships of Roskilde are of little significance to the art historian, they are of great interest from a historical point of view.
SURROUNDINGS. There are cruises in the Roskildefjord on weekends in the coal-fired museum ship Skjelskor; departure from the harbour. On the E side of the fjord is the Vigen beach park (campsite, 4 km (2 miles) from Roskilde). To the SE of the town lies Vindinge Nature Park, with large enclosures where animals live in semi-freedom. 1 0 km (6 miles) SW of Roskilde (just outside Lejre) we come to Ledreborg, a grand 18th c. country house with a sumptuously decorated chapel and a large park in the English and French styles. 4 km (2 miles) NW of Lejre is the historical and archaeological research complex of Oldtidsbyen, where visitors can return to the Iron Age. The object of the complex is to re-create the social and material culture of early times. The main attraction is the Iron Age village, with potters’, weavers’, dyers’, brick-makers’, smiths’ and woodworkers’ workshops, houses and domestic animals, all in the style of the period. During the holidays volunteer Iron Age families attempt to adapt to the earlier way of life, doing without modern conveniences. In the Valley of Fire, visitors can cook meat and bake bread on prehistoric hearths.
Roskilde Denmark Map Photo Gallery
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