Abbey of Our Lady, Aalborg
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The Abbey of Our Lady, Aalborg (Danish: Vor Frue Kloster) was an early Benedictine nunnery in Aalborg, Denmark. The former monastic church survived as a parish church, the Vor Frue Kirke ("Church of Our Lady"), until 1876, when it was demolished, and the present church of the name built on the site.
With the loss of the abbey's archives around the time of the Reformation the exact date of foundation of the Abbey of Our Lady is unknown. One source suggests that the nuns were already in Aalborg in 1116. Another source says that the community was established by Eskil, Bishop of Børglum, in 1125. Aalborg was the area's largest town and the abbey was built on property donated by the diocese. Nor is it clear whether the early nuns were in fact Benedictines.
In 1140 Sigurd Slembe, pretender to the Norwegian throne, was buried inside the abbey church, as recorded by the priest Kjeld Kalv, known while serving at the church for his piety. There is a legend that one evening when he was to read the homily, the candle he was holding went out. Kjeld nevertheless continued to read from the book without error, which amazed the congregation. Then when he had finished reading the candle lit again on its own. He later returned to Viborg Cathedral and then went on a pilgrimage to Rome. After his death in 1150 Kjeld became a local saint and the patron saint of Viborg Cathedral.
The abbey over time developed into a complex consisting of a large church and three ranges forming a rectangular enclosure to separate the nuns from the world. The church was also used daily by the residents of Aalborg, though the nuns were separated from the congregation by iron gates around the choir. The tower of the church was one of the three church towers which can still be seen on Aalborg's city logo.
The church and convent buildings underwent a significant expansion in the late 15th century and were reconstructed in late Brick Gothic style.
In the mid-1520s Lutheran ideas swept through northern Jutland and Viborg and Aalborg became centres of Lutheran reaction against Roman Catholic institutions, customs and doctrines. The Franciscans were hounded out of Aalborg, and support for the nuns completely vanished. The abbey was secularized the same year; the nuns were permitted to remain, although with very little support from the townspeople.
In 1534 Aalborg was the site of a siege and massacre at the end of Skipper Clement's rebellion. Christian III's army laid siege to the city and when the walls were stormed, the city was sacked. The city's churches and monasteries, including the Church of Our Lady, were stripped of anything valuable by the mercenaries who ravaged the city. Two years later Denmark became officially Lutheran and all religious houses and their income properties reverted to the crown. Christian III gave the abbey to the city with the stipulation that the nuns be permitted to remain under the supervision of a local noble.
The abbey church became, as the Church of Our Lady, one of the city's parish churches. The last nun left the former abbey in 1560 and the town converted one of the ranges into a residence for the new Lutheran pastor. The other ranges were demolished. Several epitaphs were added to the walls of the nave. Burial chapels were added by noble families beneath the church, of which the Scheel family chapel is still extant beneath the present building. A new pulpit was donated by Alderman Poul Popp before 1579, which is still preserved in the present church.
In 1876 the Church of Our Lady had become so dilapidated that it was decided to demolish it and build a new church in its place.
Two of the bells in the present Vor Frue Kirke have been preserved from the earlier building. One of them was cast in the 12th century and is the oldest bell still in use in Denmark. The other from 1518 was recast in 1861 when it cracked, and again in 1919 when it cracked a second time.
- Website of Vor Frue Kirke (Danish)