Aarhus Domkirke

Artikler

The cathedral of Aarhus diocese, dedicated to St. Clement, is the longest church in Denmark, and with its length of 93 metres and 92-metre tower it is a highly remarkable building in the town centre of Aarhus. The construction of the cathedral began shortly before the year 1200, but it had a predecessor outside the old city walls, on the site which is now home to the Church of Our Lady. The present cathedral is marked by many centuries of rebuilding, but a number of restorations have returned it almost to the original shape given to it by the bishops of the Late Middle Ages.

A cathedral outside the city walls

The first bishop of Aarhus was appointed in 948 according to Adam of Bremen, who also relates that the bishopric was abolished again in 988. King Sven Estridsen’s reorganisation of the Danish Church around 1060 meant that Aarhus became one of the eight Danish dioceses, and a new bishop named Christian was appointed. Bishop Christian began building a stone cathedral outside the city walls of the time, where the Church of Our Lady is now located, under which the original church’s crypt made from calcareous tufa is still preserved. This cathedral was dedicated to St. Nicholas.

The cathedral moves inside the city walls

The construction of the present cathedral began between 1180 and 1200, presumably under the enterprising bishop Peder Vognsen (1191-1202), who in 1195 gave his collection of books to the priests of the church. The new church was made with bricks on a site within the city walls, where there until then had been a small wooden church dedicated to St. Clement, and where the local saint Niels was buried. The new cathedral took over the name of St. Clement as well as the cult of St. Niels, and pilgrimage to the site must have helped the funding of the building. Peder Vognsen also donated large sums himself, and in 1197, Pope Celestine III issued a privilege of indulgence for the construction of the cathedral, which meant that 40 days of indulgence would be granted to anyone who gave a generous contribution to the construction.

The Romanesque cathedral

The Romanesque cathedral was likely finished shortly after the year 1300, and its nave and transept were the same size as today. It did not, however, have a tower in the western end, and to the east, the chancel was significantly smaller with a semicircular apse flanked by two square bell towers and two smaller apses on the chapels of the transept. By the end of the thirteenth century, a house was built south of the cathedral, which served as a common house for the canons.

The cathedral is rebuilt in a Gothic style

During the fifteenth century, the cathedral was rebuilt in a Gothic style. Bishop Jens Iversen Lange (1449-1482) in particular left his stamp on the building, for instance in the form of the tremendous western tower which bears his coat of arms. He raised the walls of the nave and built a Gothic stellar vault over it, while the aisles received cross vaults and the windows were widened. North of the cathedral, he built a large new bishop’s palace, and for the modernised church, he ordered the magnificent carved altarpiece from Bernt Notke’s workshop in Lübeck. The renovations were finished under Bishop Niels Clausen (1490-1520), who gave the church an expanded chancel with an ambulatory.

The cathedral houses a number of remarkable murals, most of which were painted around the time of the Gothic renovation, around 1470-1530.

After the Reformation

Following the Reformation of 1536, the king confiscated the landed properties of the cathedral, and the bishop’s palace was confiscated and turned into housing for the royal steward. The Protestant bishops were housed in the canons’ old common house, which was rebuilt and functioned as a bishop’s palace until 1880. Inside the cathedral, the many side-altars (about 40) were torn down, and in 1588, a new pulpit was set up in the middle of the nave.

Changes and restorations

After the Reformation, the economic foundation was diminished, and because of this, there were no further actual renovations made to the cathedral. Towards the middle of the nineteenth century, however, several changes were made in connection with necessary repairs. In 1642, the church tower burned, and in 1650, it was replaced by a shorter, octagonal spire (known colloquially as the coffee pot lid). In 1702, the apses of the eastern chapels were torn down, in 1743-44 the church was modernised on the outside in a Baroque style, and in 1775-77, comprehensive repairs removed much of the medieval character of the building. In 1822, the northern spire on the small choir towers was destroyed by the wind, and they were subsequently replaced by octagonal onion domes.

Since 1865, a number of restorations have sought to recreate the cathedral as it was around 1600. In 1877-82, the Romanesque style of the chapels was recreated and the apses rebuilt on the old fundations, while the Baroque portals and onion domes were removed. Another thorough restoration in the 1920s gave the cathedral its current look, recreating the old spire of the western tower among other things.

Om artiklen

Forfatter(e)
Ane Bysted
Tidsafgrænsning
1200 -
Medietype
Tekst
Sidst redigeret
2. juli 2012
Sprog
Dansk
Litteratur

Bjørn, Hans og Gotfredsen, Lise: Århus Domkirke, Skt. Clemens (1996)

Danmarks Kirker, 16, Århus Amt, bind 1-2 (1968)

Udgiver
danmarkshistorien.dk

Om artiklen

Forfatter(e)
Ane Bysted
Tidsafgrænsning
1200 -
Medietype
Tekst
Sidst redigeret
2. juli 2012
Sprog
Dansk
Litteratur

Bjørn, Hans og Gotfredsen, Lise: Århus Domkirke, Skt. Clemens (1996)

Danmarks Kirker, 16, Århus Amt, bind 1-2 (1968)

Udgiver
danmarkshistorien.dk