Østerlars Rundkirke

Church at noontide

The history of the building

The year before Østerlars Rundkirkes construction is about 1160, but the excact date hasn’t been confirmed yet, neither by historians or geologists. The church is located at the northern part of Bornholm and is a, in a group of totally four round churches, which is build both, naturally, as churches, but also as a fortress. Architectural the church is first of all a place for the islands citizen to defend themselves in times of war, and as second priority a church. Østerlars Rundkirke is specially designed to resist battering rams, which is the cause of the special round shape.

Around the church lies a graveyard, which is surrounded of a heavy fortification wall. In the first years of the church, is remained only of the main tower, but later came chorus, porch and apses. The round church was almost impregnable with the large walls compared to the primitive weapons of the past. The place could be defended by relatively few but skilled warriors.

Inside the church, is a smaller tower which possibly has been used as a kind of "tower inside the tower", the last instance of the defence. This tower "tower inside the tower" strech to the top of the spire, and ends in a spire.

Whether the church’s round shape has had any ritual meaning, or if the church only is build in this special shape of the already spoken practical reasons is unknown, actually very little is known about round churches, mostly because the total amount of this kind of churches, is very small. The total amount – worldwide, does not excess 10. The reason why, there only is so few round churches, is probably that it only is in Denmark and Sweden, they have been built.

Fresco painting Østerlars Rundkirke

In Østerlars rundkirke is there one of those, historic seen, the most interesting fresco painting in Denmark. One painting is painted around the middle tower"(the tower in the tower)." The painting contains many facts from the bible, out of this you can see, what the Danish population mend, was the essence of this book of the books, under the construction of the painting, about 140 years after the church was build.

There is focus much on the pain history and Jesus life, but the head part of the painting, almost one half of it, is a apocalypse picture, were Jesus judge the world’s population to a life in hell, which is symbolises with a grand dragon, there’s swallow all of the naked, suffering people.

You can se at the fresco painting, that people was very engrossed of guilt and sin, and it was the church’s intention that, to be saved was for the few, while most was cursed to a life in hell. You can tell this at background of the big focus at pain history, and at the moral idea there was defined of what Jesus made, it’s also strong represented. Finally it’s obvious, that a lot of people got cursed to a life in hell, than them there are being saved and get rights to live in a forever happiness in heaven.


Humanistic- and natural view in the time of Østerlars Rundkirkes construction

In the time about Østerlars Rundkirkes expected construction, it was common thinking, that there was a meaning with life, common membership and common responsibility. In the membership there was taken care of the weakest. The human worth became social binding. The poor was grasped with sympathy, as Jesus was known as poor too. The rich was grasped with suspicion – how did he get rich? The basic view of consume and production was related to 1. Timoteus chapter.6 verse.8: "When we have food and clothes, it shall be enough for us".

Religion included all realities relations, such as church, art, politics, economy natural science, labour market etc. You produced for the necessary – not for luxury. The natural economy didn’t consume the resources of the earth. People rested in a non-materialistic and spiritual way of thinking and living. Loan interests was seen as thievery and as damaging the society. You knew, that ownership wasn’t a right, but actually a commitment to your neighbour.

The common moral about money and egoism was at that time, the opposite of the one who rule today. If an employer could employ more people who were out of work, but did not, because it would cause him, economic problems, he would have guilty conscience, due to the common moral. There were built social institutions, which were intended to keep evil intentions of human kind down.. These institutions were also of national economic nature. This created a spiritual welfare state, in which the forces of life were protected, and where the forces of death, and evil, where kept at bay.


Amalienborg (in danish) / (no english version)

Københavns Rådhus / Copenhagen Town Hall

Østerlars Rundkirke (in danish) / in english

Roskilde Domkirke / Roskilde Cathedral

Trelleborg (in danish) / (no english version)