The great cathedral of Roskilde has a long history dating back to the shortly after Christianity was introduced in Denmark. The first church at the location was built by Harald Bluetooth – yes the Harald who have given the name to Bluetooth. In Denmark he is better known as the Harald who won all of Denmark and Norway and Christened the Danes – which he put on the stone he raised for his parent in the royal seat of Jelling.
Harald was buried in his own original wooden church which was built in the city of Roskilde when he died in 985. The remains of the church have never been found – but it is assumed the church was built at the same location as the current cathedral. The original wooden church didn’t last long and the first stone church was constructed during the early parts of the 11th century. This stone church didn’t last much longer than the first wooden church and the construction of the new modern cathedral started around 1100 and lasted for a century.
The church was finished around 1200 and the main room of the cathedral is the basis for the current church but it has been modified repeatedly during the last 800 years.
Today the church is possibly the most important church in Denmark and it is the only Danish church which has been included on the UNESCO world heritage list. The church claim to fame is the many royal graves at the church – the church actually holds the world record for most kings buried at one location anywhere.
A total of 21 kings and one ruling queen has been buried in the church – though some of the oldest graves have never been found – including the grave of Harald Bluetooth who was the first king buried here. Every Danish king who has died since 1559 has been buried in the church though the last king to die didn’t want to spend eternity inside the church so he is buried just outside the walls of the church.
The many royal graves have meant there have been repeated reconstructions of the church where there have been added new chapels over the year to accommodate the ever increasing number of royal tombs. So the view from the outside of the church is a bit strange since the different chapels has been constructed in a style which were modern during the construction of the chapel – which has changed significantly over the centuries.
The church is open for visitors daily but unlike most other churches in Denmark you actually have to pay an admission fee to go and see the old royal tombs. The tombs are pretty impressive so it is interesting to go and have a look around the different tombs and see where the old Danish kings has been buried.
On the first floor of the church there is a small museum which you can go and see after the tombs – but the tombs is by far the most interesting part of the church.
The church is located a short walk from the station in Roskilde from where there are frequent trains to Copenhagen – hence it is very easy to go and visit the church on a day trip from Copenhagen. If you visit Roskilde you might consider going to see the other world class attraction of Roskilde – the famous Viking Ship Museum which is located down at the water a short walk from the church.