The small town of Jelling has a special place in the history of Denmark. This is the first place the new Danish royal family had their residence from where they ruled Denmark just after it had been unified. The first head of the family was Gorm and he is buried in the town of Jelling. The new country soon became a major powerhouse in Europe – the grandson of Gorm was Svend Tveskæg or Sweyn Forkbeard in English who ruled Denmark and Norway. In 1002 of Friday 13th of November the English King decided to kill off the Danish population who lived in the St. Brice Day massacre. One of the victims of this killing was the sister of Svend and his brother in law.
Svend was outraged by this and decided to intensify the Danish raids of England. This went on for a decade before Svend finally conquered all of England in 1013. Unfortunately he didn’t live long to enjoy his success and died the next year – after which England revolted and became independent again. England didn’t stay independent for long. Svends son Knud conquered England in 1016 and ruled England under the name Knud den Store or Canute the Great in English. This was the height of the Danish royal family which at this time was one of the two most powerful families in Europe – only the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire could rival Knud when it came to being the most powerful in Europe.
The heyday of the village of Jelling didn’t last long after a couple of generations the royal family moved out of Jelling and moved to the island of Zealand which were more centrally located in the country of Denmark when the focus changed away from conquest of England to ruling the area around the Baltic Sea.
A lot of interesting relics has been left in the village. The main part is one of the oldest churches in Denmark in the form of Jelling Kirke which were founded shortly after king Harald Bluetooth converted to Christianity around 960. The first church was a wooden church but it was soon replaced by a stone church and there is still an old church in the village today.
The church is built in the middle of the biggest burial ground of a person ever made in Scandinavia. In ancient days the powerful chieftains would be buried inside a ship. It could be an actual ship like the one you can find in the village of Ladby in Denmark. It could also be a symbol of a ship. In Jelling the ship was a symbol of a ship with many large stones erected to form the shape of a large ship. This stone ship is the largest of its kind in Scandinavia.
King Gorm was probably buried in the largest burial mound in Scandinavia. This burial mound is located just next to the church and you can walk to the top of the hill along a little stair. From the top of the hill you have a view of the ship around the hill. The original stones have been removed over the years but there is some concrete slaps put in their place to indicate where the stones used to be.
Gorm is no longer resting inside the burial mound he has been moved to another location. It is uncertain where he has been moved to but the remains of a man have been found inside the church of Jelling. This man has the approximate age of Gorm when he died and the remains dates back to the 10th century – hence there is a likely hood these remains is actually the first king of Denmark.
Outside the church you find two important rune stones. The largest of the stones has an inscription with a very important sentence. It states “The Harald who won all Denmark and Norway and christened the Danes.” this is the first time the name of Denmark has been written down. On the back side of the stone is a picture of Jesus which is one of the oldest carvings made of Jesus in Scandinavia. This carving has reproduced in millions of copies since it is in every Danish passport.
The village of Jelling is a small place but it is an interesting place to go and visit to get to see some of the oldest history of the country of Denmark.