As we continue our photographic and historic tour of the Roskilde Cathedral, we have now reached the Canon’s Chancel, and we get introduced to King Pantsless, whose final resting place is right here. But first – the altarpiece:
The altarpiece is three-winged and made in Antwerp around 1560. The reliefs of the open altarpiece depict the events of Easter week, Christ’s agony, his death and, below, his childhood. The reverse side shows reliefs of Christ’s good works. It is not known exactly when the altarpiece came to Roskilde Cathedral, but it was described for the first time in 1623 by a German count visiting Roskilde. The candlesticks on the communion table are of brass and from the late 1600s. They were discovered in a small room in the southern transept by a churchwarden in 1860 and were cleaned and put in their present position. The Bible on the communion table is from the time of King Frederik II. The deluxe binding from 1916 has silver ornaments designed by the painter Joachim Skovgaard. The antependium (the hanging in front of the communion table), the altar carpet and the kneeler upholstery were woven by Anna Thommesen in 1977.
Behind the altarpiece there is a beautiful sarcophagus containing the remains of Queen Margrete I. She was originally buried in Sorø (as per her own wish) in 1412, but her remains were abducted by the Roskilde Bishop (!!!) and transferred to Roskilde the following year. It is said that the event was celebrated with a ceremony lasting three days and that a gilded silver chalice and an altar cloth embroidered by the queen herself were donated to each of the 50 altars in the church at that time. According to the inscription, the sarcophagus was paid for by Erik of Pomerania in 1423. In the 1700s all of the decorations on the sarcophagus were removed. They were restored during the period 1862-912. Some of the original figures are on display in the Cathedral Museum.
Queen Margrete I, although never officially Queen of Denmark, is an interesting and rare figure that it is worth spending some time getting to know:
Margaret I (Margrete Valdemarsdatter) was born in March 1353 as the sixth and youngest child of King Valdemar IV of Denmark and Helvig of Schleswig. Three of her siblings died young, and only Christoffer, Ingeborg and Margrete reached adulthood, and only Margrete lived longer than her father.
In 1359, Margrete as a six-year-old child, was engaged to the 18-year-old King Haakon VI of Norway, who was youngest son of the Swedish-Norwegian king Magnus IV & VII. As part of the marriage contract it is presumed that a treaty was signed which meant that King Valdemar had to assist Magnus in a dispute with his second son, Eric «XII» of Sweden, who in 1356 was hailed as king there and had been given dominion over Southern Sweden. Margaret’s marriage was thus a part of the Nordic power struggle. (I am serious; who needs “Big Brother” and other garbage-TV when there is entertaining history like this to be read? There is enough drama in history to last me a lifetime!)
The engagement did not last long as Magnus and Valdemar fell into disagreement, and a new bride for Haakon, Elisabeth of Rendsburg, was decided. Rendsburg was one of Valdemar’s enemies, and as a countermove, Valdemar occupied Skåne. Towards the end of 1362 the archbishop of Lund captured Elisabeth as she was on her way to celebrate her engagement with Haakon, and he declared that the wedding was a violation of church law because Haakon had already been engaged to Margaret (basically saying that an engagement is as binding as marriage). A truce was concluded between Magnus and Valdemar (I guess one or both offered an Apology) which meant that the marriage of the now 10-year-old Margaret and King Haakon was again relevant. The wedding was held in Copenhagen on 9 April 1363 in Copenhagen. Margret’s 21 year old brother Christoffer was severely wounded after participating in the war in Skåne, and died before the wedding celebrations were over. It was a sad bride that travelled to Oslo, Norway, with her husband.
King Valdemar had entered a clause in the wedding contract that the marriage was not to be consummated until Margrete reached puberty. The young Princess were taken to Akershus and handed over to the foster care of the Swedish Noblewoman Märtha Ulfsdatter. This was a surprising choice as Märtha was daughter of Birgitta of Vadstena (canonized in 1391), whom had written many bad things about Haakon’s own father, Magnus Eriksson, and even said that he was homosexual. (Probably as a smearing campaign against the opposition in her attempts to put her own grandson, Karl Karlsson, on the Swedish throne.) Best guess as of why Haakon let Märtha Ulfsdatter raise his young bride, is that she was married to Haakon’s friend and trusted companion Knut Algotsson. Thus Margrete grew up with Martha’s daughter, Ingegjerd, as foster sister and classmate. That upbringing probably emphasized religion and things Margaret should know as a woman and a queen. Her academic studies were probably limited, but it is assumed that in addition to reading and writing she also was taught the general political situation. Margrethe was a Danish Princess who grew up in Norway with a Swedish foster mom. How’s that for international for ya!
Margrethe’s marriage to Haakon was consummated when she was 15 years old, and she was pregnant when the plague for the third time in 20 years haunted Oslo. Christmas 1370 she gave birth to her only (known) child, a son named Olaf.
Her first act after her father’s death in 1375 was to procure the election of her infant son Olaf as king of Denmark, despite the claims of her elder sister’s Ingeborg’s husband Duke Henry III of Mecklenburg and their son Albert. (Her sister Ingeborg was already diseased) Margaret insisted that Olaf be proclaimed rightful heir of Sweden, among his other titles. He was too young to rule in his own right, and Margaret proved herself a competent and shrewd ruler in the years that followed. On the death of Haakon in 1380, Olaf succeeded him as King of Norway. Olaf died suddenly in 1387, aged 17, and Margaret, who had ruled both kingdoms in his name, was chosen Regent of Norway and Denmark in the following year.
In Sweden, King Albert had grown immensely unpopular, so unpopular that several of the powerful nobles wrote to Margaret that if she would help rid Sweden of Albert, she would become their regent. She quickly gathered an army and invaded Sweden.
At a conference held at Dalaborg Castle in March 1388, the Swedes were compelled to accept all of Margaret’s conditions, elected her «Sovereign Lady and Ruler», and committed themselves to accept any king she chose to appoint. On 24 February 1389 Albert, who had called her «King Pantsless» and had returned from Mecklenburg with an army of mercenaries, was routed and taken prisoner at Aasle near Falköping, and Margaret was now the omnipotent mistress of three kingdoms. In reality, Queen Margaret ruled the whole Nordic regions, because Iceland, Shetland, the Orkneys, the Faroe Islands and Greenland were all Norwegian territory at the time, and Finland was ruled under Sweden. How’s that for girl power?
Remember a couple paragraphs up that Margrete’s son had passed away? Well, this smart woman adopted her great-nephew Erik of Pomerania and his sister Catherine, and in 1389 she proclaimed Erik of Pomerania king of Norway. It had been understood that Margaret should, at the first convenient opportunity, provide the three kingdoms with a king who was to be a kinsman of all the three old dynasties, although in Norway it was specified that she would continue ruling alongside the new king. In 1396, homage was rendered to Erik in Denmark and Sweden, while Margaret once again assumed the regency during his minority. To weld the united kingdoms still more closely together, Margaret summoned a congress of the three Councils of the Realm to Kalmar in June 1397, and on 17 June, Erik was crowned King of Denmark, Norway and Sweden. The proposed Act of Union divided the three Councils, and the actual deed embodying its terms never got further than an unratified draft. Margaret balked at the clauses which insisted that each country should retain exclusive possession of its own laws and customs and be administered by its own dignitaries, because in her opinion this prevented the complete amalgamation of Scandinavia. A few years after the Kalmar Union, the 18-year-old Erik was declared of age and homage was rendered to him in all his three kingdoms, although Margaret was the effective ruler of Scandinavia throughout her lifetime.
I still have lots to show you from Roskilde Cathedral, so please check back later!