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Denmark is a Scandinivian Kingdom located on the Jutland peninsula of Northern Europe.

Denmark has been inhabited by Germanic tribes from the earliest times. During the Roman period it was not conquered by the Empire, but mercenaries from the area served in the Roman legions. Various petty kingdoms existed throughout the area now known as Denmark for many years. Around 980 Harald Bluetooth, son of Gorm the Old, established a unified kingdom of Denmark.

Conversion and Christianization[]

Around the same time, he received a visit from a German missionary who survived an ordeal by fire, which convinced Harald to convert to Christianity. The new religion, which replaced the old Norse mythology, had many advantages for the king. Christianity brought with it some support from the Holy Roman Empire. It also allowed the king to dismiss many of his opponents who adhered to the old faith. The Church would bring to his lands a stable administration that he could hopefully use to exercise some control over them.

Although Harald's predecessors had adopted Christianity at the instigation of the Frankish Carolingian kings in 826, paganism remained predominant among Danes and northerners for centuries. His mother may have implanted in the boy the first seeds of Christianity which his father, a devout servant of the Norse god Odin, did his utmost to combat. In 948 Harald submitted to emperor Otto I and had German bishops establish the bishoprics of Ribe, Arhus and Schleswig. In 960 Harald was himself converted at a place called Poppo stone.

Harald Bluetooth caused the Jelling Stones to be erected to honour his parents. Their inscription reads: "Harald, king, bade these memorials to be made after Gorm, his father, and Thyra, his mother. The Harald who won the whole of Denmark and Norway and turned the Danes to Christianity." The Jelling monuments are said to have been a statement of Harald's new-found religion; it was thought that with these monuments, he was trying to conduct a smooth transition from paganism to Christianity both for himself and his subjects. Christianity may have been impressed on him as a result of military pressure, but the stones have led some people to believe that they represent a new-found love and confidence for his new religion.

Meanwhile the Christian religion became more and more deeply rooted among the Danes. Even a few members of the nobility (such as Frode, Viceroy of Jutland) embraced the faith and soon episcopal sees were established (Schleswig, Ribe, Aarhus). The first recorded attempt at Christianization was made by the English missionary Willibord in the early eighth century. The attempt was unsuccessful, but Willibord is said to have taken thirty young Danish men back to England, possibly to start a seminary. Other attempts were made after this time, but they too were largely unsuccessful. In 845 the Danes sacked Hamburg the town where Anskar, the Bishop of Hamburg, resided. As an indirect result of the sack, Anskar was compensated and given the richer see of Bremen which was run jointly with Hamburg.

It was not until 935 that Christian missionaries had a major breakthrough in the Christianization of Denmark. At this time the Archbishop of Hamburg-Bremen, Unni received Harald’s permission to begin preaching across Denmark, even though Harald was not yet the king.

However the prominent part the Germans had in these achievements as well as the lofty idea of the Roman Empire then prevailing led Otto I, the Great, to require Harald to recognize him as "advocatus", or lord protector of the Danish church, and even as "Lord Paramount". The king of the Danes replied to this demand with a declaration of war, and the emperor sought to force his "vassal" into subjection. The devastating expeditions, which were pushed as far as the Limfjord, enabled the emperor to beat down all opposition (972), and to compel Harald not only to conclude peace and submit to the emperor again. Henceforth paganism steadily lost ground.

The Bishopric of Odense was established at Funen (Fyn) in 980; the sacrificial grove at Lethra (on Zealand), which, until then, had been from time to time the scene of human sacrifices, was deserted. King Harald moved his royal residence to Roskilde and erected there a wooden church dedicated to the Holy Trinity. In the eleventh century it was replaced by a basilica, which in turn was soon torn down. From about the year 1200 its site was occupied by the Gothic cathedral of St. Lucius, the burial place of the Kings of Denmark. Christian houses of worship were also built in many other places during Harald's reign.

Later History[]

Harald's son Sveinn Forkbeard inherited the throne and launched many raids, an eventually an invasion of England, finally conquering it in 1013. Sveinn's son Harald inherited the throne of Denmark, but not of England, which was inherited by his brother Canute. Harald died in 1018, and Canute bound together the thrones of England and Denmark.

After the death of Canute the Great in 1035, Denmark fell into disarray and England broke away from Danish control under Harald Harefoot, but was regained by Harald II's half-brother Harthacanute, who quelled the rebellion and unrest in Denmark and again combined the two thrones.

Harthacanute was suceeded by Magnus the Good, against opposition by supporters of Sveinn Estridson, Canute's nephew. Magnus did not inherit the throne of England (which went to Edward the Confessor,) and he died in 1047, making Sveinn his heir. Sveinn reestablished strong royal authority and built a good relationship with the Archbishop of Bremen, at that time the Archbishop of all of Scandinavia.

See Also[]