I have already written about the Vor Frelsers church and the Grundtvig church in Copenhagen, but if you only have one church to visit in all of Denmark, it must be Roskilde Cathedral. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, not only is the cathedral the mausoleum of the Danish monarchs, it is also a reflection of the different architectural styles throughout the ages.
I had visited the cathedral on my first trip to Denmark seven years ago and it was one of the highlights of my trip. I had been in awe of the beauty of its architecture, but also amazed by so much history. I decided to go back last week. As Roskilde is located about forty minutes by train from Copenhagen, it makes it a great place for a day trip outside the capital.
The Roskilde Cathedral was built in the 12th century, although churches existed on the same site from the 10th century, when Roskilde was named capital of Denmark. The Viking King Harold I and his son were both buried there, but it was not until the 15th century that the cathedral became the official mausoleum of the Danish monarchs.
In all, some forty kings and queens from Denmark were buried in the cathedral. To accommodate their graves, chapels were added to the original Gothic cathedral, each built in the architectural style of its time. From the chapel of Christian I in Gothic style, going to the chapel of Frederick V in neoclassical style, it is impossible not to be impressed by the grandiosity and beauty of each one of them.
Roskilde Cathedral is so rich in history that it’s almost overwhelming. In a chapel, it is possible to see a pillar on which the height of several kings (including Tsar Peter the Great) has been indicated. The remains of the thousand-year-old Viking kings are found in a pillar near the altar. There are so many tombs and coffins in the church, the chapels and the crypts that it’s easy to get lost in the history of the Danish monarchy …
Fortunately, there are several interpretation signs (in Danish and in English) through the cathedral, to explain a little the history and the architecture of what is observed. A guide book is also available at the entrance of the cathedral (there is an entrance fee).
Interestingly, it is also possible to see a replica of the coffin in which the present queen of Denmark, Margareth II, will be buried. The latter’s father, King Frederick IX, for his part broke with tradition and demanded that his tomb be placed outside the cathedral, with a view on the Roskilde Fjord.
Roskilde Cathedral is a must-see if you are interested in history and architecture. Most of the westbound trains from Copenhagen stop at Roskilde station (there are 4 -5 of them every hour) and the cathedral is a 10-minute walk from the train station.