Traditional burial place of Danish royalty, Roskilde cathedral is one of the ecclesiastical wonders of Europe; more bricks in a single building than is easy to imagine. The vaults are immense yet delicate, a tribute to mediaeval craftsmanship. The other splendid features do nothing to detract from them.
The obvious starting point is the west door; not open to anyone to pass through, this is reserved for the present queen, who has already selected her burial place. Designed by a celebrated Danish artist it is reminiscent in contemporary style of the Baptistry doors of Florence. (We were told this story by a visitor from Copenhagen.)
A much older queen is the fourteenth century Margrete, shown on her tomb recumbent and upright, to symbolise the continuity of the crown although each monarch is mortal. She is celebrated for having established union with Denmark’s neighbour Sweden, which did not long survive her.
Older than any monarch is the belief in trolls in Scandinavia, illustrated as Green Men and Sheila-na-Gigs are in English churches. These are black images, in contrast to the gilded splendour of the high altar.
Familiar to us from English churches, where the monuments are of brass, are sculpted tomb slabs set in the floor. Despite what may be thought of Puritan Denmark, there are many monuments and inscriptions, decorated or simple.
Above all Roskilde cathedral has a reverential and calm atmosphere. We visited on our way to the Viking ships museum but was well worthwhile in its own right.