Absalon Rig - Archbishop Copenhagen

*A Part of the Danish Cultural Heritage*





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Absalon - The Founder of Copenhagen
The Statue of Absalon at Højbro Plads
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Absalon - The Founder of Copenhagen
absalon on horse
The equestrian statue of Archbishop Absalon Rig in bronze on Højbro Plads from 1902.
Absalon Statue at Højbro Plads
The statue of Archbishop Absalon was erected on Højbro Plads in 1902 - and symbolically the monument faces Christiansborg Castle - and The Danish Parliament - where Bishop Absalon (1128-1201) - built his castle on the little island called “Slotsholmen” near the city harbour around 1167. Here he also founded the city of Copenhagen (København) on the east coast of Zealand. The task to build a castle - was to protect trade on the Sound (Øresund) - was given to him by King Valdemar I. (Great) - (1131-1182 - ruled 1158-1182)
Absalon was the archbishop of Roskilde and Lund in Sweden - plus the founder of Copenhagen. The city Called “Havn” was given to him by King Valdemar I - to protect the trade on the Sound against hostile merchants.
The ruins of Bishop Absalon's Castle were discovered during the excavation of the present Christiansborg Palace in 1907. The ruins and brick work can be seen and experienced under the latest Christiansborg foundations - and is certainly worth a visit.

Bishop Absalon's Castle
Bishop Absalon's Castle survived for over 200 years until it was occupied and plundered by the North German traders - called the Hanseatic League in 1369 - who then demolish the castle stone by stone - as it had for years been a irritating bastions for their trade on the Sound. The ruins of Absalon's castle was discovered in 1917 - under the excavation of the present Christiansborg Palace and can bee seen beneath the foundations.

Absalon's reputation
Bishop Absalon (1128-1201) - was a remarkable person of the middle age - with great influence on Copenhagen’s history - life and trade - plus a significant character and reputation as churchman - statesman and commander.

Archbishop of Roskilde and Lund
As archbishop of Roskilde - which was the capital of Denmark in the 12th century - Bishop Absalon became the adviser of his foster brother King Valdemar I (Great) - when the King ascended the Danish throne - and Absalon was elected bishop of Roskilde in 1158. Later in 1178 - Absalon became archbishop of Lund - a province in Sweden near Malmø.

Sorø monastery is founded by Absalon's parents in 1160 - and is located beside Sorø Academy - the oldest school in Denmark - and built together with the monastery. After 40 years of work the monastery was finally completed.
Bishop Absalon died in 1201 at the family’s Cistercian monastery of Sorø - and was buried behind the High Altar. In 1536 - a new monument of stone replaced the first one carved in wood - when his grave was opened for the first time.
Sorø Monastery and Absalon's burial plot
Bishop Absalon died in 1201 - and is buried behind the High Altar in the old monastery at Sorø - and founded by his parents. He donated all of his belongings to the monastery and property to his twin brother Esben Snare - who was the master builder of the only five tower church in Denmark (Church of Our Lady) in Kalundborg from around 1170 - located on the north east coast of Sealand.
Absalon's bishop ring
In 1536 Absalon's grave was opened for the first time - by the presence of King Christian III (1503-1559 - ruled Denmark and Norway 1534-1559) - and on Absalon's right hand the archaeologists found his holy bishop ring. The ring of gold and a blue sapphire is exhibited at the National Museum in Copenhagen. At the same time during the opening ceremony of his grave in 1536 - a new monument of stone replaced the first one carved in wood. Absalon's grave has been opened three times - the last time in 1947. Interested visitors can see Absalon's grave behind the High Altar in the old monastery at Sorø - 1 hour by train from the Central Station in Copenhagen (80 km) - and also see his ring displayed at the National Museum in Copenhagen.

Absalon's bishop ring is displayed at the Danish National Museum.

Højbro Plads (High Bridge Square)
Højbro Plads was established after the great fires of Copenhagen in 1795 - as a firebreak - where former buildings - many in Renaissance style - were razed by the fires and then rebuilt in neoclassical architecture by prominent landowners around the new square. The square is named after the first Højbro (High Bridge) that Bishop Absalon built in 1167 - to connect his castle on the small isle to the mainland and city. Since - several bridges have replaced Absalon's Højbro - and the present one is located opposite his statue and over “Slotsholms-Canal”.

Central marketplace - 1800s
Since its establishment - Højbro Plads was turned into a central marketplace with moveable outdoor carts and stalls selling all sorts of goods and groceries - which was typical for retailing and trading in the 1800s.

Højbro Plads in 1882 with the busy market place in the centre. The second Christiansborg Palace is on the right - before it burnt down to the ground in 1884. Beside the Palace is Christiansborg Chapel. Absalon's statue was not erected before 1902.
Fisher women selling seafood at the canal in 1883 - beside the old "Højbro" drawbridge. The second Christiansborg Palace is on the right and The Stock Exchange at the back. The fishing boats have tied up along the quay after their daily catch.
Gammel Strand and the Fisher Women
Alongside Højbro Plads and Gammel Strand - the small fishing boats landed their daily catch - where the loud-mouthed fisher women sold their ration of different types of fish (mostly herring) winter and summer - which was a charming scene and amusing element for Copenhageners and visitors. The fish market continued right up to the late 1950s. The marketplace at Højbro Plads was a fundamental feature of the town - as the development of trade was a major factor in urbanization of the city.
Old fisher woman selling her daily catch - in the beginning of 1950s - came all the way from Skodsborg - north of Copenhagen - and presumable the husband was the fisher men - who delivered the fish to make a living on the fish market in the centrum of Copenhagen.
The statue of a Fisher Woman - erected in 1940 - and represents one of the fishwives - who once sold fish on this spot - and right opposite the Statue of Absalon. When the statue was erected there was still a very hectic fish market on Højbro Plads.
The Fisher Woman Statue
A statue to commemorate the hard working Fisher Woman - who sold fish all year round in all sorts of weather conditions was erected on November 1940 - and was sculpted by Christian Svejstrup Madsen. The sculpture represents one of the fishwives - who once sold fish on this spot. When the statue was erected there was still a fish market here - but now it is only the granite sculpture that remains to remind visitors of the reality of the past.
Absalon is facing Christiansborg Palace at Højbro Plads. The statue was raised in 1902 - and created by sculptor Vilhelm Bissen (1836-1913) in bronze and the plinth is made of granite - with an engraved belt praising Absalon as a mighty brave warrior.

Højbro Plads is located beside Amagertorv and the pedestrian street “Strøget”. Nearby is the Round Tower - Nikolaj Church - Christiansborg Palace - Thorvaldsens Museum - the Old Stock Exchange and Holmens Church.


Absalon - Statue

Højbro Plads is located beside Amagertorv and the pedestrian street “Strøget” and nearly opposite the Danish Parliament "Folketinget" - Christiansborg Palace.


Absalon Statue
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