King and Church
|In the early Middle Age the royal power and the church power were allied in the building of a central power and the administration of the realm.
Dalby Church, one of the first stone churches, was closely connected to the royal- and church power.
The Central Power
Harald Blåtand (Blue Tooth) (dead 985) saw the connection between a strong central power and the introduction of Christianity. The inscription on the famous Jelling stone states: “He won Denmark and Norway and Christianized the Danes.”
|The building of a central power took place in close cooperation between the royal power and the church. This alliance was formed early, which Harald Blåtand´s text on the great Jelling stone indicates: Won all of Denmark and christianized the Danes”. The alliance was to be exposed to pressure.
Military installations and money
That some sort of central power was establishing itself was also evident when they began to coin money and build large military installations like Trelleborg in west Zealand.
The Coins Works in Lund
Knud the Holy
Perhaps it was an exaggeration when Harald Bluetooth claimed that the Danes became Christian before the year 1000, but it is obvious that the royal power very early aimed at introducing and strenghten Christianity. As early as 1027 Knud the Great went to Rome, where he participated in the ceremonious crowning of a new German-Roman emperor on Easter Day. This crowning was a Christian act and Knud wanted to present himself as a great Christian prince.
Further signs that a Danish kingdom was beginning to establish itself was that they began to put up boundary stones. Five stones in Halland and one in Blekinge marked the border to Sweden. In north Scania no boundary stones were needed as the forest made out a natural border.
Adam of Bremens Depiction
At this time Adam of Bremen wrote his depiction of the North. This depiction was not only built on his own experiences, but also other sources like statements from the Danish king Svend Estridsen (1047-1076).
In Adam of Bremen you can see where the most important areas of the central power were. That Jutland did not seem very important to Adam of Bremen is apparent from his depiction of the area: ”There is almost no agriculture and is unfit for human settlement”.....”it is without doubt the most terrible part of the country and it is best to avoid the area; on land because of lack of seed, at sea because of the pirates”.
His depictions of Zealand on the other hand, are full of superlatives: ”The island Zealand, which is centrally situated in the Baltic, is great in size. Zealand, which is famous for the bravery of its inhabitants and its rich harvest, is two day´s journey long and almost as wide. The largest city is Roskilde – Denmark´s royal seat.
The Sound Region – The Centre of Power
Scania Adam of Bremen described as ”the loveliest region in Denmark” and that it ”is heavily armed with men, fertile in seeds and trade goods.”
It is obvious that the chief area was east towards the Sound region and that was applied to the ecclesiastical as well as the secular power. The king Svend Estridsen built around 1060 a royal farm and a church in the Dalby (outside Lund).
Dalby became Episcopal residence in 1060, but was joined with Lund in 1066, when the Dalby bishop Egino moved to Lund and succeeded the former Lund Bishop Henrik. The Lund diocese thus included Blekinge, Halland and Bornholm. Sven Estridsen also worked to make Lund archbishopric. The royal power had its centre in Roskilde in Zeland and the ecclesiastical power had been attached to Lund in Scania. These two power institutions had thus been located in the Sound region.
The Baptismal Font
The Dalby Book
Influence from England and Germany
The Dalby book is a gospel book and the oldest known Nordic book. It is thought that the ornamentation points toward an Anglo-Saxon influence.
But the archbishopric had connections to Hamburg-Bremen.
|Knut the Holy gave tax money and land to Lund in 1085 in order for the cathedral to be built.
In 1104 Lund became archbishop seat for the entire north and shortly thereafter the building of Lund´s present catedral was started. It was finished in 1145.
Knud the Holy did not have a good relationship with the magnates, but his ambition was to strengthen the royal power with the power of the church. In his time Lund´s first stone church was built (1083). It was called Knud the Holy´s Cathedral, as the king had donated the field, on which the church was built. In 1085 he once again donated a gift to the Episcopal residence in Lund. It was several properties on both sides of the Sound. In addition the Lund cathedral was to receive tax money from the city of Lund, but also from the towns Lomma and Helsingborg.
The background for this was that the Danish towns paid a property tax to the king as the king owned the land that the cities were built on. The tax was called Midsummer tax. It was parts of this tax that Knud the Holy donated to the cathedral in Lund. This is noted in Knud the Holy´s donation latter from May 21st 1085. (The donation letter is quoted in Lund´s Cathedral´s first obituary, memory book from the middle of the 12th century). As the Midsummer tax only was paid by towns it is clear that Lund, Lomma and Helsingborg was founded before May 21st 1085 and that these three were the first towns in Scania.
In 1089 Lund had a new archbishop, Asser and in his time Lund became the episcopal set for all the North. This happened in 1103 and after this the building of Lund´s new cathedral was begun. It was built in the same place as Knud the Holy´s cathedral, but was to have dimensions, which was proper for a large archbishopric. (Lund was archbishopric for the North until 1152, when Norway had its own organisation while Sweden was released from Lund´s archbishopric in 1164 and after that Lund´s Cathedral was solely a Danish cathedral). To carry out this important building, the architect Donatus, who was probably of Lombardic origin, was called in. The high altar was inaugurated in 1123 and the church was finished in 1145. The church room is considered by many as one of the most beautiful in the Roman art.
Lund in the 16th Century
In 1089 Lund had a new archbishop, Asser and in his time Lund became the episcopal set for all the North. This happened in 1103 and after this the building of Lund´s new cathedral was started.
As the builder of the impressive prestige building the Lombardi architect, Donatus, was summoned. The church room is considered by many to be among the most outstanding in the Roman church art. And the rough restoration in the 19th century is deplored by many. Characteristic of the Lombardi inspired art is the extensive use of decorative elements on portal figures.
Italian Influence (the south portal)
The South Portal
The Troll, Finn
The strengthening of the royal power and the ecclesiastical power probably happened at the expense of the magnates´ influence. This led to conflicts and this was especially evident under Knud the Holy (1080-1086 and it ended with the murder of Knud the Holy. Here we can see the dividing line between the interests of the central power and the magnates.
|The royal power cooperated with a number of magnate families, of which the Hvide family in Zealand was the most noted. The magnates held the highest offices and left their mark in the building of churches.
The Magnates Churches
The extensive building of stone churches in Denmark was to a great extent led by local magnates. In some churches magnates´ galleries have been preserved. Magnates who had financed the building of churches could from these galleries attend the services from an elevated position.
Vejby Magnate Church
Further proof of the importance of the magnate families can be seen in the memorial plaques, which exist in a number of churches in the region. The most well known is perhaps the one in Fjenneslev´s Church, where the plaque represents Asser Rig and Mrs.Inge (Gørlev).
Asser Rig was a son of Skjalm Hvide (dead around 1120), who was the founder of the Hvide dynasty, the most well-known magnate family in Denmark. Asser Rig was the father of Absalon, famous archbishop of Lund and founder of Copenhagen.
The King´s Officials
The long reign of King Niels from 1104-34, marks a consolidation period, where the church and royal power mutually fortify their position in the society. The royal power seems not to challenge the magnates, but extends its positions by appointing officials, among others a chamberlain, who was to take care of the financial circumstances and monetary matters in the realm, and later the king´s chancellor, who was his personal secretary. Incidentally this position was reserved for the bishop in Roskilde.
For the operation of the churches a tithe is introduced on production around 1125, which is allotted to the church and the clergy and this marks a step in the direction of the financial integration of the church into the medieval society, which is taking shape.
The military functions are separated and are transferred to the army and its officers. The duty of the men of the realm to volunteer for the defence of the nation goes back the Viking Age, but the arrangement is now modernised. The king´s housecarls of magnates are changed into a circle of local officials, or ombudsmen, which took care of the local administration. Larger units were managed by the king´s earl, magnates like for instance Skjalm Hvide, who was earl of Zealand. In Scania the king had a special official, or governor, the “gælker”.
The Bastrup Tower
The Battle of Fotevik
The Battle of Fotevik, June 4th 1134 signified the end of the long reign of King Niels. The battle is described as one of the most bloody in medieval Denmark. The cause was a long conflict between the descendants of Svend Estridsen (1047-74), about who was to succeed King Niels on the throne.
King Niels, who was the son of Sven Estridsen, landed with his son Magnus and a great army in Fotevik in the south-western part of Scania, in order to settle accounts with his closest rival, Erik Emune, who was the son of King Niels´ brother, Erik Ejegod. Erik Emune was supported by the archbishop in Lund, Asser, as well as by a mercenary German army of approximately 300 riders. It is believed that this was the first time a cavalry was used in Denmark.
The result was that King Niels´ army was destroyed, which had catastrophic consequences for the political stability in Denmark. Magnus, the son, fell and King Niels only just escaped. Three weeks later he was murdered by dissatisfied citizens in Slesvig. Among the fallen was a large part of the Danish administration, among them 5 bishops and around 60 clergymen. It is not known how many of the rank and file was killed. The Battle of Fotevik is described as early as 1138 in the Roskilde Chronicle and somewhat later by Saxo.
The Roskilde Chronicle
Lund, Denmark´s Capital
The victor, Erik Emune, was paid homage to on Sankt Libers Hill in Lund. He settled in the town and made it the capital of Denmark. However, Erik Emune developed into a bloodthirsty tyrant and was murdered in 1137 in Tinget in Ribe by the magnate Sorteplov, who ran through him with his lance.
|This is what is left of Søborg´s Castle. In the middle of the 12th century it was an important basis for the bishop of Zealand.
Conflict Between Royal Power and Church
In archbishop Eskil´s time (1137-77) the relationship between the church and the royal power deteriorated. This conflict is described in the Roskilde chronicle, which is the first coherent account of Denmarks´s history. It is written around 1140, probably on archbishop Eskil´s initiative.
Eskil had in his youth studied in Heidelberg and Paris and had come in close personal contact with leading persons in the papal church. He was influenced by these and wanted to run the church independent of the secular power. In the spirit of the Cluny movement he worked for the building of monasteries, but he also agitated intensively for free bishop elections and took the pope’s side against the emperor in the so-called investiture conflict, which was about the right of the church to elect their own bishops. During a trip to Rome Eskil was taken prisoner by the emperor’s men and from his prison he wrote home.
Eskil was released and returned home. In Denmark he fell out with King Valdemar the Great, as Valdemar had formally subjected to the German-Roman emperor. Thus the church and the royal power landed on opposite sides in the investiture conflict. Eskild was forced into exile in 1161, but returned in 1168, where he was reconciled with the royal power.
Søborg´s Ruined Castle
Absalon, Bishop and Warrior
|At the end of the 12th century the church and the king started a close collaboration. Valdemar the Great and and Bishop Absalon carried out a crusade against the heathen Wends in North Germany.
King Valdemar the Great and Absalon
King Valdemar the Great appointed his childhood friend Absalon (who belonged to the Hvide family) bishop in Roskilde in 1158. He did this although Absalon still was not thirty years old, which was necessary to become a bishop. With this a cooperation was established and the good relationship betwen the church and the royal power was revived.
The Expedition to the Wendish Coast
In 1159 Valdemar and Absalon went on an expedition to the Wendish coast. Wendish raids had for a long time ravaged the Danish coast. The Danish attack on the Wendish was in reality also a raid and not a crusade, which was what they said.
The Crusade Against Rügen
The Crusade Against Rügen
Church Festival in Ringsted
The alliance between Absalon and the king was manifested at a big church festival in Ringsted in 1170, in connection with the burial of king Valdemar´s father in the newly built royal grave church. In thsi connection the king tried to strengthen the position of the royal family by appointing his son Knud as his successor, in spite of the fact that he had not been approved by the three parliaments in Jutland, Zealand and Scania.
St. Bendt´s Church
Eskild in Monastery
In this church festival in Ringsted archbishop Eskild participated too. He resigned in 1177 and the archbishop seat was taken over by Absalon, who continued as archbishop in Roskilde. Eskild moved to the Monastery of Claiveaux in France.
Building New Churches
Absalon devoted himself to strengthen the position of the church in Denmark by building new churches and developing the organisation. He was actively involved in the building of Tikøb Church in North Zealand and Gumløse Church in northeastern Scania. Gumløse Church was inaugurated in 1197 and Absalon was present with the bishops from Växsjö and Trondheim. In a letter Absalon is mentioned by name with a local magnate. Even at Norra Åsums´s church in nort eastern Scania Absalon is mentioned with the words:
”Christ, Mary´s son, help those, who built this church, archbishop Absalon and Esbjørn Mule”.
North Åsum´s Church
The Danish Big Power
Revolt in Scania
In 1180 Absalon tried to introduce bishop´s tithe and celibacy for the priests. In connecction with this a revolt broke out in Scania.
(This revolt is described in Saxo´s history of Denmark chapter 15 and 16, but also in the obituary of Lund´s Cathedral from the 13th century.
In Liber Daticus that, which is comprehensively described by Saxo, is reproduced. The reasons for the revolt are comprehensively depicted in the older Zealand chronicle from approximately 1300.
Central Power or Not
The protests originated, according to this source, not only in the introduction of bishop´s tithe, but also because the Scanian population felt humiliated by the increasing authority of the church and Absalon´s favouring of his Zealand relatives.
The Scanians showed their discontent by refusing to pay tribute to the new king Knud IV (Valdemar´s son), who had been appointed and crowned with the support of the church. Archbishop Absalon answered with military power to force the Scanians to acknowledge the new king.
It was obvious that a dividing line had come into existence between the central power and the population.
|Valdmar Sejr (1202-1241) and archbishop Anders Sunes continued their close cooperation between king and church. The central power tried to adjust the legislature to a Christian central governed country.
Anders Sunesen after Absalon
Absalon died in 1201 and was succeeded by his relative Anders Sunes, who held the archbishop seat until 1223. His contemporary on the royal throne was Valdemar Sejr (1202-41). Even Anders Sunesen´s four brothers had important posts. His brother Peder became bishop in Roskilde.
He started the building of the cathedral there, and he was also the man behind the original Our Lady Chruch in Copenhagen.
Educated and Political Active
Anders Sunesen was educated and internationally orientated. He was active politically and wanted to develop the close cooperation with the royal power and he participated in the expansion of the Danish Baltic empire.
Control over Central Power
The development of the domestic circumstances was marked by the strong control of the central power. The royal power as well as the ecclesiastical power wanted to change the legislature in order for it to fit in a central governed society. This can be studied in King Valdemar´s funeral book from 1231, where the king´s right of property and relation to the magnate families are determined. In the Jutland Law from 1241 the relationship between king, church and magnates are described.
Valdemar´s Property Book
Anders Sunesen engaged in the adapting of the legislature to a Christian view. He fought against the vendetta, which was typical of the old family society, but it did not fit into his Christian ethics or the society, which was developing. The old proof of innocence by carrying red hot iron in the bare hands, should be exchanged by a right to plead innocent under oath.
He also wanted to adapt the legislature on marriage to the Christian outlook on life that it is a sacrament and thus an ecclesiastical affair.
The Scanian Law
It was natural for a talented and educated man like Sunesen to be interested in the spreading of education. It was very important to improve the education of the ignorant priests in order for the view of the church on the world and society to be spread.
In 1223 Anders Sunesen retired and spent his last years in Ivö in north eastern Scania. He was ill, probably leprous, and he died in 1228. He is buried in Lund´s Cathedral.
Anders Sunesens sarcophagus