Scandinavian Romanesque

The Lund Cathedral dedicated to the Martyr Saint Lawrence (Lund, Scania, Sweden) consecrated in 1145.
The crypt of the Lund cathedral. This crypt has remained mostly untouched since its consecration in 1123 and contains many sarcophagi, chests and grave slabs.
The most famous pillar of the Lund cathedral’s crypt is the one with the statue of a man embracing it. According to local legends it is supposed to be the figure of Finn the Giant, the Troll who built the cathedral.

To study the infiltration of the Romanesque architecture in Scandinavia we have to start in Sweden even though it was evangelized later than Norway. The architectural styles in Sweden were heavily influenced by the German Romanesque and were closer in form to the Romanesque Rhenish cathedrals. The most important Swedish cathedral is Lund. Its large apse is rectangular and has a vast crypt extending almost to half the entire church’s basement. This vast underground space covered by groin vaults was built between 1110 and 1123. Its exterior has high galleries such as those of the Rhenish cathedrals, square towers, and doors with decorated tympani. The cathedral of Uppsala, similar to Lund in its general disposition although in French Gothic style in its exterior, was made in brick with large windows at the style of the Germanic cathedrals.

In Denmark there are the two Romanesque cathedrals of Ribe and Viborg. The Ribe cathedral, with a square apse, has undergone few alterations. The Viborg Cathedral has a magnificent crypt. The present-day church of Viborg is a 19th-century construction based on the Lund Cathedral’s design and have no resemblance to the medieval cathedral that stood there since 1130. Its crypt though is originally Romanesque. In addition to these basilica-type churches, there is in Zealand the Kalundborg church that seems to mimic a Carolingian model with a concentrated floor plan. Kalundborg has a square central tower and four octagonal towers at the end of the cross’ arms. The cathedral of Roskilde, begun in the late twelfth century, is partly Romanesque, partly Gothic. As a remain of civil Romanesque architecture in Denmark is the square tower of the famous castle of Elsinore, close to the sea.

The Uppsala Cathedral (Uppsala, southeastern Sweden) begun in 1272.
The Ribe Cathedral or Our Lady Maria Cathedral (Ribe, west coast of southern Jutland, Denmark).

In Norway, the Romanesque architecture had particular features. In an earlier essay, when talking about the art of the Vikings, we have referred to the beautiful wooden churches (stave churches) typical of the country and covered with interlaced and other elaborate ornamentation. By their floor plans and general disposition it can be inferred that these buildings should have imitated older types of Nordic constructions, with a large central lantern supported by trunks and covered with sculptures and interlace, with an apse flanked by two apsidioles located at the far end of one of the arms of the cross floor plan. Finally, around the church ran an outdoor gallery. The doors of these Norwegian buildings have zoomorphic reliefs.

The Church of Our Lady at Kalundborg, in northwestern Zealand (Denmark).
Roskilde Cathedral (Roskilde, island of Zealand, Denmark) begun ca. 1170.
The Nidaros Cathedral at Trondheim in Sør-Trøndelag county, Norway. It was built from 1070 to 1300.

In addition to these wooden buildings, there are in Norway some stone churches, the most important of which is the cathedral of Trondheim or Nidaros cathedral with a Romanesque crossing and a lantern tower in the center. St. Mary’s church at Bergen follows the same type; but there are also many other buildings with an inner skeleton made of masonry pillars and arches forming two floors, all covered with a wooden gallery as a circular nave. This type of churches are also found in Denmark, and what is more particular, in Iceland, an island completely devoid of forests, which led to make their own version in stone of these Norwegian wooden constructions.

St. Mary’s Church in Bergen (Hordaland county, Norway) built between 1130-1183.