Church and Monastery
|The largest building project in Sound history are the many churches and monasteries, which were built in the MiddleAges.
A great deal of the churches and monasteries are preserved and via their architecture, their murals and so on, we have here an eminent source for the understanding of the past.
|Between 1100 and 1250 around 2500 churches were built in Denmark. It was an enormous investment and testifies to the impact of the church and the dynamic, which was prevalent at the time.
Building the Churches
We may have difficulties imagining the vast investment, which was needed to build the churches. In the early Middle Ages more than 2500 churches were built in the Danish area. This testifies to the strong grip the Christian church had on the population.
Churches among the People
The locations of the medieval churches can supply us with a picture of where people lived. Every area had a church, but there were some exceptions. Those were Roskilde, Lund and Helsingborg, which were archbishoprics. They had a special significance so they had 23 churches. Helsingborg had 6 churches.
In the beginning the churches were built of wood, the so-called stave churches, but from the middle of the 11th century they began to build stone churches.
The building material in the Sound region was usually limestone, which was cut to a cube form. This almost square stone was called ashlar. (The oldest preserved stone church in the North is Dalby Church outside Lund).
Sometimes the ashlar was supplemented with other stones from fields. (Example of such a mixture of building materials can be seen in the southern wall of Tveje Merløse Church).
In the 12th century it became more common with tile and early examples of the the use of tile are Gumlösa Church in Scania and Tikøb Church in Zealand.
Tveje Merløse Church
There are examples of special kinds of ground solutions for the medieval churches. The round churches, which are typical of Bornholm, are special. In Helsingborg the Michael Chapel at the castle a round church and in Zealand Bjernede Church is the only example.
Portal Nylars Church
Most churches had a simple ground plan. One big room was for the parishioners. This room was called the aisle or the nave. This room was extended with the choir, which ended in an apse, where the altar was placed. The aisle and the choir was often bounded with a vault, the so-called triumphal arch.
The big churches in Dalby and Lund had a much more sophisticated ground plan. The nave or the aisle in these churches looked like the Roman basilica, which meant that the aisle had three naves, of which the one in the middle was elevated and let the light in. In these churches there were also crypts and Lund´s Cathedral was given the form of a Latin cross.
Roman Ground Plan
The magnate churches differed from the ordinary churches. The often had twin towers and a gallery for the prominent.
Tveje Merløse Church
The murals, which were done on the walls of the churches, was part of the Roman style. These were often done on the wall, which is called the triumphal wall, which separated the choir from the aisle. The triumphal wall had a big vault (the triumphal arch), in which a triumph crucifix hung. The motif on this wall was taken from the bible and was often a series of pictures. It was a simple and effective way of spreading the message of the gospel. Sometimes there were pictures of the founders of the church and benefactors.
|The murals in the Roman churches were educational aids in the learning of the Christian faith. They are richly represented in the Scanian and Zealand churches.
Roman Ground Plan
Judgment Day Motif
Triumphal Arch Painting
Fjenneslev Church ornamented by the Finja-workshop from Scania, while the Jørlunde-workshop mainly worked in North Zealand and is presumed to have been connected to the Hvide-family, perhaps as artisans in their service.
While the lengthy Byzantine-influenced reproductions are characteristic of the Finja-workshop, one of the marks of the Jørlunde-workshop is the use of stucco in connection with the paintings. Ordinarily the Roman mural is considered somewhat rigid and immovable, but in the works of the Jørlunde-workshop, figures with movement and plasticity are common.
The Madonna-motif, which is known in innumerable variations from books and icons, is also present in the murals. As in this example from a niche altar in Måløv Church, which is Byzantine influenced and perhaps with a script as the source. In Tveje Merløse Church there is a Madonna picture close to the women´s entrance, towards the west wall with the magnate gallery, which also features the only known painting on a west wall.
Madonna Motif in Målöv Church
Madonna in Tveje Merlöse Church
In many apses ”Majestas Domini" (The power of the Lord) were painted, which was a common motif in the Roman style. In this motif Jesus sits with an almond-shaped halo on a rainbow throne. The four symbols of the evangelists often surround the whole picture. This composition has its model in Byzantine emperor pictures. A fine example of this motif is in Vä Church outside Kristianstad. The Majestas Domini motif is very common in Scania and in Zealand.
The Central Power
Jesus as the mighty ruler could easily be connected to the power ambitions of the church and the royal power.
Majestas Domini in Vä Church
The Baptismal Font
|The art of sculpture reaches a high level in the early Middle Ages, mainly on the many fonts, which also were an important commodity. Fonts from Gotland are common in North Germany.
In the Sound region they mainly used limestone, but there are some in granite, which is the preferred material in West Denmark. Many fonts have been painted originally.
The fact that there had to be fonts in the churches, was originally decided at the synod in Leda in 594. The font should be made of stone and placed in the west end of the church near the main entrance. Later on, however, it was moved to the choir. Originally baptism was by submergence, which is why the oldest fonts have a large hollow. Younger fonts often have a basin of richly decorated metal, for instance beaten silver or brass.
In the Sound region we know the fonts from the Early Middle Ages. It was sandstone fonts made of local materials or from Gotland. Granite fonts mainly originate from the west Danish, Jutland area.
The font in Aakirkeby
Dalby Church. The font.
The font from Tikøb Church
Font in Bjäresjö
|The first monasteries were founded as early as the 11th century in Denmark. When the Cistercians monasteries came in the middle of the 12th century they became the centres of the development of agriculture. In the beginning of the 13th century mendicant monasteries were founded in the cities.
Early Monastery Orders
Parallel to the extensive church building, monasteries were built. The Augustine and Benedictine orders were early monastery orders. Both these orders built on the rules, which originated from Augustine (4th century) and Benedict of Nursia (6th century). Most well known is Benedict of Nursia´s monastery vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. In the monasteries they followed a schedule, where prayers, work and service alternated in a fixed rhythm. The proverb ”pray and work” is closely linked to these monasteries, which were founded in the Sound region as early as the 11th century. In Lund a Benedictine monastery was founded in 1080, which was named the All Saints´ monastery. In Dalby an Augustine monastery was founded in the beginning of the 12th century. The monastery grew rapidly and soon became one of the richest in the district and in Næstved a Benedictine monastery was founded in 1135.
Næstved Monastery Church
The Monasteries Importence to Produktion
The monasteries had important tasks, when it came to the spreading of the Christian doctrine, but they also had great importance when it came to the introduction of new agricultural methods and cultural plants. Christianity was thus deeply rooted in the medieval agricultural society. Gradually many monasteries in Europe developed into real companies, where the main occupation was production. They produced and sold wine, animals, corn and even iron goods. This is why there were monastery reformers, who wanted to take the monasteries back to their original tasks.
The Cistercian Order
The Cistercian order from around the 12th century was such an order. It started in Citeaux (in Latin Cistercium) in France and its founder was Bernhard of Clairvaux. The archbishop Eskil in Lund was his personal friend and that could be the reason that Cistercian monasteries were founded very early on both sides of the Sound, in Herrevar in Scania in 1145 and in Esrum in Zealand in 1151. Sorø monastery, which was founded by the Benedictines in 1151, took on the Cistercians´ rules in 1161.
The immigrating monks, who founded the early Cistercian monasteries, took with them building traditions and this in connection with the order´s regulations on the appearance of the monastery, makes it plausible to talk of a Cistercian building style.
According to the rules the Cistercian monasteries had to be located in the villages and the monastery should participate in the work of clearing the forest and create new cultivations. The commitment to new cultivations also made these monasteries knowledge centres for modern agriculture methods.
Bernard of Clairvaux
These reform monasteries aimed at a more heartfelt piety. The worshipping took on a more intimate character and was close to the ideas of the mysticism. The abbot in Äbelholt Monastery gave examples of this perception in his letters.
The Maria Cult
Another sign of the transition to a more heartfelt and intimate piety was the upturn of the Maria Cult in the monasteries in the 12th century. In the monasteries the monks saw life as a struggle against evil and the fear of the just God made them seek help from the motherly Mary, who prayed for the sinners. Archbishop Anders Sunesen wrote one of the many Mary hymns, which were performed with music. His paean to May was called Missus Gabriel de Coelis and the theme of the hymn is the Annunciation. It is about Mary´s intimate relationship with God, a relationship that is typical of the Mysticism.
The Monasteries´ Land
In the course of the Middle Ages churches and monasteries become large landowners like the king and the squires. The archbishopric in Lund, for instance, had more than 300 properties and all of Bornholm at its disposal. In the course of the Middle Ages the monasteries in Scania came to own more than 2000 properties. A large number of the estates were acquired as gifts, donated to the monasteries.
After Peter Bogorm (Pierre Le Mangueur) around the end of the 12th century invented Purgatory (Purgatore) they now operated with a state between heaven and hell, an hour of reckoning, whose length could be shortened by your own and purchased prayers and masses.
This increased the power of the church over the souls and added to the land and wealth of the churches and monasteries.
Originally there were strict rules about the right of inheritance of the church, but it was circumvented by the donation of soul gifts. Even though it was prohibited for the monks to buy land until 1216, it was circumvented, when landowners mortgaged an estate to the monastery, which then took over the land, if the mortgage wasn´t paid.
The Dominicans and the Franciscans
Another group, which also reacted against the rich monasteries, were the mendicant order. But these had a quite different working method. Instead of withdrawing to contemplative and heartfelt piety the mendicant friars wanted to work for the public in an outgoing way. They preached, helped the poor and nursed the sick. In order to finance their activities the monks begged for money. This is why their monasteries were placed in the cities, where there were trade.
The most prominent mendicant orders were the Dominicans (the black monks) and the Franciscans (the grey monks). These orders had been founded by Domenicus (1170-1221) and Franciscus (1182-1226). A Dominican monastery was founded in Lund in 1222 – the first in the North and a Franciscan was founded in 1232. A Franciscan monastery was founded in Ystad and in 1270 a Dominican monastery was founded in Helsingborg, which was dedicated to St. Nicolaus.
Franciscan Monastery in Ystad
|Æblholt Monastery was from the beginning an Augustine monastery, which was moved from Eskildsø to Æbelholt in 1175. The abbot Wilhelm tried hard to get a functioning monasstery building and he was sainted in 1224.
The source material around the establishing and development of the monasteries the the Sound region is limited. But Äbelholt monastery is an exception. There is a thorough description of this monastery. In reality it is a biography of the abbot Wilhelm of Äbelholt. This source is biased in the sense that it is written with the purpose of canonizing Wilhelm, but the description can still provide interesting information on the activity in the monastery. The writers are probably archbishop Anders Sunesen from Lund, his nephew Peder Jacobson, who was the bishop in Roskilde and abbot Thomas from Herreva´s monastery.
From Eskilsö to Ebelholt
Æbelholt Monastery was founded on land, which was donated by the Hvide-family. A clearing in Grib Forest with a fertile islet in a small lake and with a stream close by. Not the best agricultural soil, but Absalon as well as his relation Peder Sunesen(1161-1214), who succeeds Absalon as the bishop in Roskilde in 1191 and becomes the king´s chancellor in 1201, supported the monastery continuously.
In abbot Wilhelm´s correspondence there are some letters addressed for the archbishop “the Lund gentleman”, who in this case must be Absalon. The letters testify to large problems with the running of the monasteries. The death of the patron Peder Sunesen is deplored and the misfortune, which have befallen the monastery as its barns have burnt down twice.
The Augustine Order
There was an Augustine order in Eskilsø in the Roskilde inlet, but the monastery was moved to Äbelholt in North Zealand in 1175. Absalon´s generosity made it possible for them to move to new buildings in Äbelholt. Here they had built a church and a house for the canons. In abbot Wilhelm´s letters to the archbishop ”the gentleman from Lund” is mentioned, which is probably Absalon. It appears that there are difficulties making the monastery function, but Wilhelm made a lot a changes and tightened up the monastery regulations.
Another letter to the abbot in Esrum describes problems with the water supplies. Absalon had donated lead pipes to the monastery´s water system, but it was difficult to make them function.
In 1183 there were 25 monastery monks and the monastery also functioned as a hostel for visitors. Sometimes more than a 100 persons were fed and the board and lodging was free.
It was thanks to the engagement of Wilhelm that the neglected monastery developed and he was canonized in 1224. After this Äbelholt became a popular resort.
In 1176 the began the building of a new stone church.
The Art of Medicine
|Æbelholt Monastery developed into a centre of nursing and medicine. Excavations from the 1930´s documented the monks´ knowledge of medicine and nursing and it gave an insight into the diseases of the Middle Ages.
Extensive excavations at Äbeholt monastery have confirmed that the monastery was a medical centre. Abbot Wilhelm himself used the name ”the hospital monks”.
Many times the people in Äbelholt apparently had conflicts, as the excavations have shown many cut injuries.
The Medieval Medicine
The medieval medicine was developed in the monasteries. In the Salerno monastery in southern Italy many medical and surgical scripts were written. The Salerno school had the classic theory of the four body fluids: The blood in the veins, mucus in the brain and the lungs, the yellow gall in the liver and the black gall in the spleen. Different characteristics were attached to these fluids. Blood was warm and wet, mucus cold and wet the yellow gall warm and dry and the black gall cold and dry.
The view of the diseases was also linked to the theory of the four elements (earth, water, air and fire). The different organs in the body were considered to have a connection to the position of the constellation on the firmament. Through the study of the stars you could be guided in whether you should regulate the balance of the fluids, which could be done by bloodletting. They thought that diseases were caused by an imbalance of the four body fluids.
This imbalance could also be discovered through the examining of urine and the controlling of the pulse. Medicine was prescribed, made by different herbs, which was to counteract the imbalance. In Roskilde the canon Henrik Harpenstreng (1164-1244) wrote a book on herb medicine. In here you can see how widespread the employment of herbs was in the Middle Ages.
The herbal garden
In Äbelholt Monastery surgical operations were performed. Trephine (they drilled a hole in the cranium) was done and even operations, which had to do with the healing of fractures. A large part of the medical activities were the healing of wounds.
The medical treatment in the monasteries was much debated because part of the church prohibited that priests participated in the treatments, which included bloodletting. Sometimes the medical profession was called in question. Bernhard Clairvaux felt that ”the consulting of doctors and medicine does not benefit religion and is in conflict with purity”.