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St Lawrence Church
Lawrence, a deacon who served under Pope Sixtus II, was responsible for the church treasury.
When the Pope was executed during the Roman persecution of Christians, Lawrence was put in charge of the church’s riches, which he distributed among the poor; an act that did not go down well with the emperor, who demanded that Lawrence bring the church’s treasure to him instead.
Three days passed and Lawrence appeared before the emperor with the poor, proclaiming that they were the true treasure of the church. This audacity led to the martyrdom of St Lawrence, who, according to legend, was burned on a gridiron. He died on 10 August 258 and the night sky still teems with shooting stars, known as the Tears of St Lawrence, on that day.
Erected in the 1100s, on the site where Roskilde’s town hall and tourist office now stand, St Lawrence Church was the parish church of the city centre and its ruins lie below the main square, Stændertorvet. Built with limestone, a common material in the Middle Ages, the church was plundered during the Reformation when Denmark turned from Catholicism to Protestantism. Demolished in 1531, all that remains of the church is the stately old late Gothic church tower built of large mediaeval bricks, horizontal limestone bands and architectural embellishment around the top.
In 1735 the tower became part of the new town hall built atop the ruins and also served as the town hall tower for the new city hall built in 1884. The city hall was located here until 2010 when it moved to the old Amtsgård.
Hear the podcast about the old town hall and St Lawrence church ruins here
Möchten Sie den Podcast über das alte Rathaus und die Sankt Laurentii Kirchenruine auf deutsch hören, drücken Sie bitte hier
Various excavations of the ruins, the first carried out in 1931, have revealed that the floor and church walls were raised several times. This was due to the fact that the streets, used back then as a rubbish dump and for manure, had been resurfaced directly on top of the refuse, thus raising the level of the streets and making it necessary to also elevate the church to prevent it from being below street level. The original bottom floor is well preserved and lies 1.5-2 metres below the current street level. The beautiful mosaic floor, which was originally white with black tiles, is now red and black and visible if you visit the ruins.
The old church floor.
Various types of tombs, including tile or brick limestone caskets, chests and simple graves where the body was laid between two boulders, have been discovered under the floors, a common feature of mediaeval churches.
Now part of the Roskilde Museum, parts of the church ruins and the church tower are well preserved and open to the public. Free entrance. More information is available at the site.
The name of the city’s central square, Stændertorvet, derives from Stænderforsamlingerne, or Assemblies of the Estates of the Realm, which were held in the Palace just off the square. Hear additional stories from inside the beautiful, mysterious palace garden.