Denmark: Secularizing religion and sacralizing heritage – University of Copenhagen

Denmark: Secularizing religion and sacralizing heritage

In Denmark HERILIGION will focus on two World Heritage Sites in Denmark, namely the Roskilde Cathedral and the Jelling Mounds, Runic Stones and Church. In the words of the World Heritage Centre, “built in the 12th and 13th centuries, [Roskilde Cathedral] was Scandinavia's first Gothic cathedral to be built of brick and it encouraged the spread of this style throughout northern Europe. It has been the mausoleum of the Danish royal family since the 15th century. Porches and side chapels were added up to the end of the 19th century. Thus it provides a clear overview of the development of European religious architecture.” This heritage clearly fuses religious and secular (royal) authority, but the Cathedral continues to function as a church.

“The Jelling burial mounds and one of the runic stones are striking examples of pagan Nordic culture, while the other runic stone and the church illustrate the Christianization of the Danish people towards the middle of the 10th century.” Again, this refers to religious heritage, but HERILIGION questions how the Jelling mounds currently sacralize the Danish nation and its Viking ancestry.

HERILIGION studies the use,  presentation and experience of and at heritage sites in these various parts of presently multi-religious Denmark against the backdrop of the non-separation of Church and State. HERILIGION uses primarily ethnographic methods involving heritage managers, clergy, congregation and visitors, in combination with historical and media methods. The research will be executed by a junior researcher under supervision by Oscar Salemink and Ulla Kjær of the Danish National Museum, and in joint affiliation with the University of Copenhagen and the National Museum.