The Runic Stones of Jelling in Denmark

When crossing Denmark and in particular the Jutland area, there are 2 UNESCO World Heritage sites that are easily accessible: the Runic stones of Jelling and the Christiansfeld Moravian Church colony settlement. Let’s go and discover the Runic Stones of Jelling!

 

Jelling stones - Danemark - view of church from mount

Jelling, a small and charming town, is home to a major piece of Danish history: the largest runic stone of Scandinavia which is often called “The Birth Certificate of Denmark”.

 

A bit of history?

Let’s go back to the 10th century, when Harold Bluetooth, son of King Gorm the Old (first Danish King) and of Thyra Dannebod, became Kind of Denmark.

These were dark times, probably the darkest of medieval times. Western Europe was the theater of wars, political unrest, violence and chaos mainly due to the Scandinavian Vikings raids in the North in countries like France and England ; the Muslim pirates terrorizing Italy and Spain and the Hungarians and Bulgarians, most of Germany. There were no central government and nobles ruled  locally.

Yet most of Europe had converted to Christianity, and, most likely to protect its country, Bluetooth converted, around the 960s and erected the runes stones of Jelling, as well as the first Jelling church, as a symbol of his new faith.

Harald Bluetooth as king of a newly unified, powerful and Christianized Denmark marked the beginning of a second Viking age.

 

Today, Jelling offers visitors a well maintained and well presented site which is composed of:

The Runic Stones 

The largest runic stone is located exactly midway between the two mounts. Its incised inscription, beneath an inscribed interlaced Nordic dragon, reads “King Harald bade this monument be made in memory of Gorm his father and Thyra his mother, that Harald who won for himself all Denmark and Norway and made the Danes Christians”.

Jelling stones - Danemark - year 965 King Harald Bluetooth - Danemark birth certificate

Color reproduction. One can also be seen in Regent park in London

Jelling stones - Danemark - animal with a snake coiled around it

Jelling stones - Danemark - King Harald Bluetooth stone

Jelling stones - Danemark - kind Harald Bluetooth back

King Harold wanted to be remembered for some specific achievements, therefore he erected a runic stone intended to last forever.

The original position of an adjacent smaller runic stone is not known. However, the stone has been in its present location since about 1630. Its inscription reads “King Gorm made this monument to his wife Thyra, Denmark’s ornament”.

The 2 Mounts

Mount burial was very much a pagan tradition. Bluetooth father was buried in of the mount and, after his conversion, Bluetooth had his father’s body reburied in the church.

Jelling stones - Danemark

Jelling stones - Danemark - stairs up

Jelling stones - Danemark - outside view

Jelling stones - Danemark - second mount

The Church

A small simple church of whitewashed stone is on the site of at least three earlier wooden churches, all of which were destroyed by fire.

 

Jelling stones - Danemark - outside church cemetery

Jelling stones - Danemark- inside church

Jelling stones - Danemark - inside church nave

Jelling stones - Danemark - inside church detail 2

Jelling stones - Danemark - inside church detail

The Stone Ship

It is believed that the stone ship symbolizes a boat which was to carry the deceased to the kingdom of the dead.

 

The Museum

The museum across the road from the church is a really nice addition. It gives plenty of explanations about the site, the vikings, Christianity… all presented in a fun and interactive manner.

Jelling stones - Danemark - view of museum from mount

Jelling stones - Danemark - inside museum

Cafetaria and shop

Jelling stones - Danemark - museum boutique

Jelling stones - Danemark - how fast would you die

How fast do you die?! 

Jelling stones - Danemark - musuem display

Jelling stones - Danemark - museum display 2

Jelling stones - Danemark - old drawing

Jelling stones - Danemark - dragon

 

My take on the Jelling stones?

The actual stones have unfortunately lost much of their prestige and you can barely see the carving, at least during the day. But overall, I was really glad to be back, and enjoyed walking around and up and down. The museum is really nice and fun and informative.

If you like rock carving, check out my post on the Talum site in Sweeden!


 

The Technical bits: 

Lots of additional info on www.visitdenmark.co.uk and www.fortidensjelling.dk

The site is free including the access to the museum and terrace.

When does the magic happens? As night falls, the structures around the stones light up and details of the carving appear much more clearly.

If you are into Vikings, another super nice place and super fun one to visit is the Viking museum of Trelleborg. Official website: http://en.natmus.dk/museums/trelleborg/

And in case you are wondering, yes, the Bluetooth technology was named after King Harold Bluetooth as he was a symbol of unification and communication!

 


 

Want to see more in Denmark?

Visit Denmark destination page for more

 


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