Grandeur tracing back to different ages


Photo: Martin Heiberg, Copenhagen Media Center

Roskilde Cathedral is part of our world heritage – 800 years of Danish history in one single incredible architectural work.

Af Jakob Fälling

Roskilde Cathedral is a monumental building from the time when Roskilde was the capital of the Danish kingdom. The building houses so many different architectural styles and stories that it can be difficult to decode. Therefore, it can help to think of the building as a large medieval church with an array of adjacent buildings in various styles.

The cathedral’s main building is a Gothic basilica – a square hall with two towers and a rounded chancel. According to the latest studies, this building was erected around the year 1200. The cathedral is Scandinavia’s first Gothic building and is characterized by the large amount of daylight that flows into its interior.

It was designed this way because light was the central theme of Christianity at the time, which also explains the positioning of the cathedral to maximize incoming daylight.

Whereas churches had previously been built with small windows and load-bearing walls, Gothic architecture marked a new approach. The cathedral’s interior rib vaults and pointed arches were new technology at the time. They distribute the weight of the church roof to the building’s stone pillars. Since the walls no longer had to bear the load of the roof, it was possible to build larger windows and thus increase the amount of incoming light.

The design is also visible on the exterior of the cathedral, where the massive buttresses are seen throughout the building. These buttresses are filled with construction debris and they hold the cathedral’s pillars and interior structure in place. Walking around the church, you will discover how each individual chapel, as well as the church porch and chapter house, were built in the dominant style of their respective eras. Here you will find Historicist, Renaissance, Neoclassical and Late Gothic architecture represented.


  • Gothic basilica with Romanesque features (including rounded window arches in some places).
  • Built using around 2.5 million red bricks. 
  • The brick burning technique was rediscovered around the year 1100 and sparked a revolution in building, as previous construction was limited to natural stones or blocks of limestone (as used in the Absalon Arch, which connects the cathedral with the Royal Palace).
  • The cathedral has suffered numerous fires, including in 1282, when the pope asked his subjects for support for the reconstruction effort.
  • A total of 38 Danish kings and queens are buried in the church, including Harald Bluetooth.


The urban spaces around Roskilde Cathedral provide good views of the church and surrounding city. The small, narrow Regent’s Path connects the cathedral with Provstevænget and offers a wonderful view of the cathedral and fjord.

The Royal Palace (also known as the Yellow Palace), which previously served as a residence for the Danish royal family, can be explored during the opening hours of the Museum of Contemporary Art and Roskilde Art Association.

The gardens behind the many walls of this neighborhood are open to the public. The closest gardens are Klosterkælderens Have, Latinerhaven and Palæhaven. 

Roskilde Abbey consists of a manor built in 1565 and a residential wing built in 1907. Both buildings are located in a beautiful abbey garden and surrounded by other green urban spaces and historic buildings.