Roskilde Cathedral – are they all called Dorothea?


This is the seventh post from Roskilde Cathedral in Roskilde, Denmark – and the second post from the Chapel of the Magi; you can read the previous posts here:

Roskilde Cathedral – Royal Graves and UNESCO World Heritage

Roskilde Cathedral – The King’s Door

Roskilde Cathedral – the Nave

Roskilde Cathedral, King Pantsless

Roskilde Cathedral – The Chancel (and a brief history of two womanizing kings)

Roskilde Cathedral – Twise a Queen

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As discussed in the previous post from the Chapel of the Magi, the tradition of royal burials in Roskilde Cathedral was resumed after the Reformation. The most magnificent sepulchers are those of Christian III (died 1559) and Frederik II (died 1588). They are both made by Dutch artists in the Renaissance style as small antique temples with decorations inspired by ancient Rome. Let us look into the King who brought the Reformation to Denmark, and his influential queen:

Christian III (12 August 1503 – 1 January 1559) reigned as king of Denmark and Norway from 1534 until his death. He was the eldest son of King Frederick I and Anna of Brandenburg.

Inspired by his tutors, who were devout Lutherans, Christian established Lutheranism as the state religion of his realms in a reformation. By urging of his Lutheran tutors, Christian heard Martin Luther speak in 1521 at the Diet of Worms, and was clearly intrigued by Luther’s arguments. The prince’s outspokenness brought him into conflict with both his father and the Catholic Rigsraad. At his own court at Schleswig he did his best to introduce the Protestant Reformation, despite the opposition of the bishops.

After his father’s death, in 1533, Christian was proclaimed king in 1534. The Danish State Council (rigsraad), dominated by the still Catholic bishops and nobles, refused to accept Duke Christian as king and turned to Count Christopher of Oldenburg in order to restore Christian II to the Danish throne (Christian II had supported both the New and Old Faiths at various times). In opposition to King Christian III, Count Christopher was proclaimed regent.

This resulted in a two-year civil war, known as the Count’s Feud (Grevens Fejde, 1534–36), between Protestant and Catholic forces. During the war, 3,000 people were massacred in Aalborg, Jutland, and the city was plundered by Protestant German mercenaries. By the help of the Protestant Swedish king Gustav Vasa, Christian also defeated the Catholics at Loshult. The Lutheran Swedes moved against Helsingborg Castle, which surrendered in January 1535 and was burned to the ground. Count Christopher’s forces held out in Malmø and Copenhagen until July 1536 when they surrendered after several months of siege by Christian’s forces. With their capitulation, Christian III was firmly emplaced upon Denmark’s throne, and the Catholic forces in Denmark were subdued. Alot of blood was shedded in rearranging within the same religion…

The triumph of a German-speaking Lutheran like Christian III would eventually bring about an end to Catholic Christianity in Denmark, but Catholics still controlled the Council of State. Christian III ordered the arrest of three of the bishops on the State Council by his German mercenaries (12 August 1536). Martin Luther wrote to the king congratulating him on his success.

Churches were closed, cathedral schools terminated, and recalcitrant priests turned out of their parishes. Catholic bishops were imprisoned unless they agreed to marry and give up their privileges. Some submitted after years of imprisonment; others refused to accept the New Faith and became martyrs.

King Christian III died on New Year’s Day 1559 and was interred in Roskilde Cathedral.

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Let us look into his queen and wife: Dorothea of Saxe-Lauenburg (9 July 1511 – 7 October 1571), consort of Christian III from 1525.

Dorothea was raised in one of the first states in Germany were the reformation was proclaimed, and was affected from Lutheranism early in life. She was married to Christian on 29 October 1525, and became queen in 1533, though due to the Civil War (Count’s Feud) that immediately followed her husband’s accession to the throne, her coronation did not take place until 1537.

Queen Dorothea was interested in politics, and although it is unclear exactly how much influence she had, she is thought to have participated in appointing and dismissing officials. She was, however, prevented from taking a formal seat in the council. She never learned to speak Danish. Her control over her ladies-in-waiting was strict. In 1540, Birgitte Gøye was freed from her engagement with her assistance, which led to a law banning arranged engagements of minors. She was widowed in 1559.

As a widow, she lived in Kolding, and she visited her children in Germany regularly. She exerted a stern discipline over her children even after they had become adults, and her acts as a guardian to them were described as strict and intense. She often protected the younger children from their reigning brother, and favored her younger son. It is speculated that her oldest son did not want to give his mother the pleasure of seeing him married, so he waited til after her death.

Queen dowager Dorothea tried to marry her brother-in-law and neighbor, Duke John II of Schleswig-Holstein-Haderslev (1521–1580) – to the great opposition of her son and various theologists and marriage was ultimately prevented. This began the breakdown of her relationship with her son, King Frederick, which had never been particularly close. Her relationship to her reigning son grew worse during the war of 1563–70, when the King discovered that her mother had tried to go behind his back and form an alliance with Sweden by offering marriage between her favorite son Magnus, and Princess Sophia of Sweden. This last made the king regard her a traitor, and he exiled her to Sønderborg Castle, where she spent the remainder of her life.

Queen Dorothea is interred next to her husband in Roskilde Cathedral.

Check back later, for in my next post from Roskilde Cathedral we will meet the son Dorothea didn’t like all that much. King Frederik II.

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