Kalundborg is a Danish city on the northwestern coast of the largest Danish island, Zealand – only a 20 minute drive from our summerhome. It is mainly a trading and industrial town, population of some 16000. (Being a proud Norwegian, I just have to point out that Kalundborg is the birthplace of the Norwegian Nobel laureate author Sigrid Undset. She was two years old when her parents emigrated to Norway in 1884.)
Lord Esbern Snare, son of the legendary Asser the Rich and brother to Absalon (archbishop of Lund), had a fortress built at Kalundborg around 1170, thus he is seen as founder of the town. Esbern was of the Hvide (White) clan, whose leaders seem to have been among the first to accept Christianity, and several of the clansmen rose to highest positions of Danish church.
Before building the fortress, and Kalundborg, Esbern was an active man. He had travelled to the Baltic, where the “missionaries” of the Nordic Kingdoms went on their crusades. If you could not get to Jerusalem, the next best thing would be to bring Jerusalem to the nearby heathens instead.
Inspired by the crusades, Esbern started building a quite unique church (Church of Our Lady)on the tallest point within the grounds of his fortress. The floorplan is in the shape of a Greek cross, where each of the same length arms end in towers, and the fifth tower rise from the midpoint of the cross. The thought behind this is the Heavenly Jerusalem, the earthly location where all true believers will spend eternity with God. In the middle ages they had a vision of the Heavenly Jerusalem as a fortified town with 5 towers.
News from the Pope of the fall of Jerusalem reached Denmark in 1187 when Esbern was 60 years old. He was well connected, and this was his chance to go to Jerusalem, as the Pope called for a crusade to deliberate the Holy Land from the heathens. Esbern led the Danish Crusaders whom arrived Jerusalem in 1192 – right after it was all over!
When Esbern returned to Kalundborg, Ingeborg and Peder Strangesen, Esbern’s daughter and son-in-law, had finished building the church. Peder Strangesen also wanted to partake in his father-in-law’s inspiration, and went to partake in the crusades himself. He didn’t get farther than Ribe (south-west Jutland, Denmark’s oldest town) – where he died in 1241.
An early morning in September 1827 the middle tower collapsed and until 1871 they had to make do with only four towers. The reason for the collapse is said to be a combination of poor maintenance and that the four pillars on which the tower was built on had been weakened from the many burials that had taken place inside the church throughout the years.
Next stop will be Sejerø, a picturesque, small island.