The Largest Round Church on Bornholm

Trip Start Aug 25, 2007
1
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Trip End Dec 20, 2007


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Saturday, September 22, 2007

Osterlars is actually the name of a church, and it should be spelled with an O with a slash through it, but I don't know how to make the keyboard do that.  I took the bus out to the church instead of biking.  It's one of the round churches of Bornholm unique in the world and unknown until someone wrote about them in the 18th century.

The best guess is that they were built in the 11th or 12th centuries.  They don't follow the patterns of any church architecture, but many of them still have original frescoes.  Osterlars is the biggest of them all.  The interior has been renovated and is now a fully functioning Lutheran Church.  The other six days of the week an old man works a tourist desk at the entrance, collecting 10 kr per person and giving you the church's and his entire life story. 







The weirdest thing about these churches is their lack of windows...and obviously the roundness.  They are about three stories tall, though only the first story is functional as a church.  The only windows are small openings and arrow slits.  You are free to roam through all the levels of the church.









The church doubled as defense for the surrounding areas.  If the town came under attack, people could hide out in the upper levels of the church and defend it from all sides.  It also has a decent view of the surrounding lands as well as plenty of arrow slits.  It seems like defense was the foremost purpose of these buildings as the round building isn't very conducive to being a church.  The set-up today is rather awkward with many pews having no view of the altar.  The baptismal font is palced in the middle of the round part, which is surrounded by a fresco of judgement day. 








Surrounding the church is a graveyard, mostly of recent burials.  It's pretty typical of cemeteries all around Denmark.  They are very well kept, kind of like a garden with separate areas for each family.






On the way out, I met up with some other students and then got stuck talking to an old man who charges 10kr entrance to the church from Monday to Saturday.  He told us half the history of Bornholm.  He also apparently buys all his shirts from Oregon and was very proud of that fact because Oregon makes the best shirts.  When I told him I was from Ohio, he gave me a long story about Wisconsin, as they are apparently the same place.

Also, Denmark has the reputation for being racist.  They are one of the most homogenious societies, the most easily in Europe.  This isn't helped by the fact that they are making more strict immigration laws and that immigrants, mainly from the Middle East, live together in the worst parts of cities, or in Odense, on the outskirts in drab apartment buildings referred to as the ghetto.  Apparently recent immigrant legislation calls for only accepting Danish looking immigrants.

Regardless, Bornholm is unknown to most of the world, a secret tourist destination for Danes and Germans.  One of the girls with us was one of the exchange students from China.  Danes also say exactly what is on their mind and this old man told her that she could be Chinese.  Her eyes weren't slanty enough.  She must be Korean.  I've also heard stories of many Danes meeting a skinny American and acting astonished that they are not fat, as all Americans are fat.  It seems that they expect other societies to be as alike among one another as they are.
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