The current cathedral was preceded by at least two churches. Medieval historians report that Danish king Harald I Bluetooth in 980 AD founded a wooden St. Trinity church in the city of Roskilde and 5 years later was buried there. Nothing has been preserved of that church – and that was absolutely impossible, since that place was subsequently occupied by different churches over the following millennium.
In 1020 Roskilde became the residence of the bishop, which immediately made this city stand out for several centuries till the early 15th century. Roskilde was the capital of the Danish kingdom, where the monarch resided and made crucial political decisions.
The following cathedral was erected on this place by king Knut's sister, Estrid, in 1080, sacrificing a large amount to the church, built of travertine, a sort of local limestone. The city chronicle says that this church was decorated with a crown, marble columns and stone carving, and on the northern side it was adjoined by the monk and cleric monastery. At that time the church was a three-aisled basilica erected by bishop Svend Nordmand.
In 1170 bishop Absalon, who was not only a clergyman, but also a politician and a warrior, a person who also was the founder of Copenhagen, began constructing a new brick cathedral on the place of the old church. That church was to become the most important cathedral for Denmark. Cathedral construction lasted nearly 100 years. It was completed by 1280. Around three million bricks were used to build it. Today St. Lucius cathedral is a bright specimen of bricks Gothics, included in 1995 into the UNESCO list of World Heritage.
Inside the cathedral is at least as impressive as from outside. In the museum on the 2nd floor it is possible to learn about the history of its construction and see the way the church looked like in the 10th and 11th centuries, how the construction developed under the rule of bishop Absalon.
The walls of the eastern part of the cathedral are beautifully decorated with frescos of the early 16th century, showing true-to-life Harald Bluetooth, king Knut’s sister Estrid, Sweyn Estridsen and his close friend bishop Wilhelm. All these people were directly related to the cathedral construction and were buried here among the first. All of them died long before the cathedral was completed and later they were reburied.
Pay attention to the unrivalled 15-century clock in the cathedral. On the left there is an image of the knight, St. George, who as legend says, killed a monstrous dragon that terrorized the whole city in Minor Asia. At 12 sharp the horse, on which St. George is sitting jumps on the dragon, the latter yells, the clock strikes 12, and the figure of a woman shakes her head along with the clock strikes. Each hour St. George pierces the dragon with his sword and the latter howls. The dragon howling comes from the organ, installed next to the clock.
In the early 17th century Christian IV placed a royal logde opposite the cathedra and the organ. The lodge consists of 2 rooms, located on 2 floors and divided by vertical posts decorated with the images of Christian virtues: faith, hope, love, justice, wisdom, power and moderation. If you like organ music, then you will certainly appreciate clear sound of the 16-century organ.
The history of the three-level cathedral altar made in Antwerp in 1560 is interesting. The story of its appearance in Roskilde is quite insightful: it is common knowledge that the Danish charged the so-called Sound duty to all the vessels, crossing the Sound strait. It was established by Eric of Pomerania. The size of the duty was specified depending on the cost of the cargo, which the vessel captain claimed at the customs. The trap was in the fact that the customs could either believe these words and let the vessel sail or buy the cargo out at the indicated price. That was the way the altar was purchased from the greedy Spanish as a bargain and then it was given to the cathedral of Roskilde. Paintings, shown on this altar tell about the life of Jesus Crist, his childhood, agony and death.
You will not be able to get into the cathedral through the front entrance, since it is designed only for the royal family. The front entrance is used as an exit only for weddings, funerals or confirmation process (transition from adolescence to the adulthood). Originally the door was made of oak in 1872. In 2010 a new bronze version was developed, and the old door was replaced. The internal door is 1.5 smaller than the outer one due to the building design, and the triangle above the door was made as the wheat field. From outside the door is decorated with the symbols of 12 Apostles of Jesus Christ.
The main sight in the cathedral is undoubtedly the variety of royal tombs. No coronations or weddings have been kept here, even funeral ceremonies have been held in another place, this is just the mausoleum of the royal family.
The earliest burials probably date back to the 10th century, but there is no clear evidence – just indications in chronicles, naturally, archeological excavations have not been held in the cathedral. There are so many tombs under the church that the cathedral actually rests on bones.
The cathedral is divided into 6 large chapels, where monarchs have been buried.
This is the resting place for Margarethe 1, who managed to unite all Scandinavian states into one Danish kingdom;
Frederick II, who built Kronborg;
Christian III – the founder of the Danish Protestantism;
Frederick V, who was called by its people "the Kind", despite his highly amoral lifestyle;
Christian VII, whose name is related to one of the biggest scandals in the history of Denmark.
Here we will also find the tomb of apparently most famous and popular Danish monarch – Christian IV, who became known as a "king-builder", whose works can still be seen throughout the country in Copenhagen as well as in other parts of Denmark.
There is also the tomb of Frederick VII, who gave the "green light" to the Constitution of Denmark and
Christian IX, who was nicknamed the "European father-in-law", because he managed to make ties with a number of royal families in Europe.
A walk around the tombs is travelling back to the history of Denmark. Here you will need respective education and knowledge. If you like history or would like to learn more about the monarchs of Denmark and their lives, then we offer you to go to St. Lucius cathedral on a tour with one of our guides, who will show you around. In this case you will not need to worry about the way to the cathedral, or about the transfer to and from your hotel which is included into the tour programme. More information on the tour to Roskilde cathedral you can find here.