Roskilde Cathedral is the most important church in Scandinavia and a UNESCO World Heritage site. The oldest parts of the church date from the late 1100’s and it is the only building in the world with that many kings and queens buried in it.
Roskilde as the Capital of Denmark
Roskilde was the capital of Denmark until 1443 AD. The first king to make it the capital was the viking king Harald Bluetooth after whom a famous mobile technology is now named. He choose it because of the fjord and its strategic location in the middle of Denmark (at the time).
Harald Bluetooth made Denmark Christian replacing the old Nordic gods. He also built the first church on the spot where the cathedral is located today. That church was made of wood and did not stand for very long.
The Construction of Roskilde Cathedral
Until very recently it was believed that the Bishop of Roskilde, Absalon, who was also the founder of the city of Copenhagen, began the construction of the current church in the 1170’s. But the newest research indicates that the construction did not start until around the year 1200 after his time. The center of the church (that still stands) and the towers were constructed within the next one hundred years. So, although the walls in the church look surprisingly intact and new, they are eight hundred years old.
The basic layout of the church has changed little since then, but numerous side chapels have been added over the years to make room to bury most kings of Denmark throughout history.
The Royal Burial Sites
In total, 39 kings and queens are buried in the cathedral. You will see their tombs and burial monuments everywhere.
Margrethe I who is buried prominently in the middle of the church was the most powerful person in Scandinavian history. She unified all Nordic countries under her and thus ruled an empire stretching from Russia to North America.
Christian IV who reigned for 60 years and built both Frederiksborg and Rosenborg Palace is also buried in the church in a large chapel. His father Frederik II, who built Kronborg Castle, rests in another magnificent chapel.
Our current Queen will also be buried in the church when she passes away hopefully many years from now. You can see her chapel to the left when you look towards the altar.
How to get to Roskilde Cathedral
It is 36 kilometers from Copenhagen to the cathedral. The easiest way to get there is to take a train from the central station in Copenhagen to the town of Roskilde and then walk to the cathedral. The train ride takes between 22 and 26 minutes and the walk is another 13 minutes. The timetable for the trains can be found here.
Another way to get there is to join our tour the GRAND DAY TRIP AROUND COPENHAGEN. This tour includes a full guided visit to the cathedral as well as the other major historical sites in the Copenhagen area and it is the only way to see all of them in one day.