Monday, October 18, 2010

Jelling - Harald Bluetooth, Rune Stones, Burial Mounds, Church

The history of Jelling encapsulates the history of conversion of the Danes to Christianity, and it was a rocky road. Worth it? Minds vary.  What drove the work:  How many parts force, repeated?  A hundredfold. How many parts gospel by example, love etc., zip. Maybe one.

Find Harald Bluetooth I, in a far broader historical context, at Bogomilia: Harald Bluetooth I.  Find a timeline to put Vikings into perspective as to violences. This is a World Heritage Site, see ://

Here is the cast of characters at Jelling, Denmark:  Denmark coming under siege again against the new perceived successor to the earlier aggressor, Charlemagne:  Here, Otto, who picked up the banner against the Norse after Charlemagne's empire fell apart:  first, Gorm the Old, Viking King, pagan tradition. His wife, Thyra. When Thyra died, Gorm erected a rune stone in her honor. Their son is the one who impacts back and forth with Otto -- Bluetooth.

This side says "Denmark".  The reverse says "Gorm King made these memories after Thyra his wife Denmark's ornament", according to the translation at ://  Read there of her strengths in enlarging the ramparts known as the Dannevirke, and persistence in defending Denmark, against Otto and the Germanic tribes. And against Otto's own advances.  In 1627, the stone sat next to the church entrance, and was used as a seat. Then moved.

Gorm died in about 958 ACE, and was buried in the Viking tradition, in a burial mound. Here is the north mound where he was buried:

Do we have the mounds straight? There are conflicting accounts: is Thyra in the center of the old stone ship construct, or was she in the mound, now emptied (grave robbers). See ://; and then that one body was recovered, was that Gorm? ://  Have to keep checking. Some say the South Mound never did contain a body and that it was intended by Harald Bluetooth for himself. That would put the Queen Mother in the stone ship between, now where the church is located. Is that so?

 Harald Bluetooth finally is converted to Christianity, and built a church on the same site as the Gorm the Old burial mound; and also the site of a large stone ship -- the outline of a Viking ship in spaced standing stones, usually signifying a burial place at the center.  It is believed by some that Queen Thyra was buried in that place.  Building the church over it blends the pagan with the Christian,  and also puts Thyra in "hallowed" ground.

 Harald also reburied his father in the church.  That church burned, as did its succcessor, and another was built.  There are three clear sections to the church, but go in and only find access to two.  Go inside and get disoriented. Which room are you in? An added entryway is clear enough, but the inner space is nothing like the outside suggests.

The oldest part is reinforced. But inaccessible.  Little window 'way up top. What is in there?

Little window on the other side, at human level. Is that the altar end?  False ceiling?  There was a vestry meeting going on inside, so we fiddled around outside most. Find details of the church at

Interior:  here is the menorah form for the candelabra. This frequently shown in Danish churches.

 In 2000, after confirming identity, Gorm was reburied beneath the new church, in front of the choir, with just a little symbol there that has no other marking and we missed it, found it here:  See ://

Harald Bluetooth, son of Gorm and Thyra, set up a 10-ton pyramidal rune stone in honor of his father and mother both.

It looks different from each angle.

There are Christ symbols, and Christian symbols. The figure of Christ on Side 2 is the oldest representation of Christ in Denmark.  See it more clearly in the paint that would have been used at the time, at  ://

Side 3, animals and snake, Rune stone, Harald Bluetooth for King Gorm and Queen Thyra

Harald ultimately was deposed by his son, Sven, and fled to Poland we think.  There he dumped Christianity (is never canonized by the Church; but is given a prominent place and may be buried at Roskilde Cathedral).

Why a clipper ship hanging from the ceiling? The motif is common in Danish churches. Need research. Is this a clipper?

A third great stone honors a wife of Harald Bluetooth, apparently.

Was it the theology of Christianity that moved the Scandinavians, or force and organization backed by assets and means of communication:  Charlemagne and successors pressing on.

Think back:  Christians had the advantage of literacy; and traditions of keeping records and illustrating and writing stories.  And the power and the military of the Pope.  The Vikings had little of that, in their largely oral tradition, and mustering armies as needed. Literacy and communications:  Even Gorm's rune stone for Thyra is the first known recorded words of a Danish king.

 Like corporations against individuals:  guess who wins.  Guess who can muster more resources, and more varied resources.

Still, after decades, even hundreds of years of people saying they converted to get the Christians off their backs, and then returning to their own views; some stuck. Then more, and it all then stuck and the Viking culture was diminished in the historical view to a brief, regrettable few centuries of unexplained violence.

For more of the Builder's work, see Harald Bluetooth's Bridge over Ravning Enge, at Velje, see ://   Half a mile long, 18 feet wide.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi, I find your site very interesting! I recently found out that Harold Bluetooth was my 41st great grandfather. I have been researching all about this ever since. I was very compelled when I saw the Menorah displayed in this church and noticed your comment that this is common in Danish churches? WOW. I have recently been discovering the Hebrew roots of Christianity and this photo of the menorah blows me away! I live in the USA, and I would eventually like to visit this great historical site in Denmark. Thanks for the information you have provided on your website, and if you have any more info about the practices of this specific congregation at this church, I would love to have access to it. Thanks again, and may the LORD bless you!