|8 April 2006
It was raining hard and looked set in for the day as we approached Jelling, Denmark's spiritual home.
Moth and had I been musing on the difference between British jam and American jelly, wondering about the (il)logic of American musicians jamming rather than jelling, when, quite randomly, Bob Marley's 'Jammin'' started playing on the MP3 player.
Jelling was virtually deserted when we arrived. Ours was the only car in the car park and everything was closed, even the museum. And it was very, very cold.
Jelling is a small town centred on series of monuments from a number of different ages. First a bronze age barrow, then a Viking stone long ship, then runestones, then two gigantic mounds, then a church. Peel back the layers here and you begin to understand Denmark's history and sense of national identity.
It is only 1,000 years since Christianity was adopted by Danish kings over the old religion and Jelling marks the place where this happened. Outside the church that now stands between the two mounds a Viking runestone is carved with the earliest known image of the crucified Jesus in Scandinavia.
Each monument has been acknowledged and built into the next phase of Jelling. I like that continuity even if it does mean the land close to the mounds around the church and the runestones is now filled with neat and tidy modern graves.
We wandered around trying to make sense of it but the place lacked atmosphere without any people around. Unusually this is set of monuments that needs people to make it live. A visit to the museum would help us understand but it wasn't open for an hour and a half, so we drove around in the rain in a fruitless search for the carved tree on the Jelling pages of TME (page 167) before returning to Jelling Kro for some coffee and a plate of chips.
The museum is situated directly opposite the mounds, runestones and church. As you go round reading the excellent displays in Danish and English you can glance out of huge glass windows and actually see the monuments in front of you.
There is a feel of Avebury about this place – the monuments and history still being occupied, enjoyed, revered and used, even if the reasons 'why here especially?' are not addressed.
It is pretty remarkable that only a few years or so before William of Normandy invaded England, the Danes were still following their native 'pagan' religion.
Posted by Jane
30th July 2007ce