A new Jerusalem in medieval Scandinavia

"(...) There seems to have been a concerted effort in Scandinavia from the beginning of the twelth century to turn the wilderness in the North into a new Jerusalem. As in many other western European countries at the same time, round churches were built in imitation of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, and relics were brought in huge quantities from the Holy Land to Scandinavia, not least the Holy Cross. 

The Norwegian king Sigurd Jorsalfarer (or Sigurd I Magnusson ca. 1090 – March 26 1130) brought a cross relic back from his Crusade in 1110 or 1111 which he had  promised to place at the tomb of St Olav in Trondheim, but instead he installed it in the church in his new fortification in Kongshelle, on the border of pagan Västergötland, where for years it helped to repel the attacks of his enemies, until it was eventually stolen by Wends and had to be ransomed.

In 1123 Archbishop Asser consecrated the crypt in Lund Cathedral and enumerated all the relics placed there: not only a piece of the Holy Cross, but also of the manger from Nazareth, of the table of the Last Supper, and even a fragment of the stone Jesus had stood upon before ascending to heaven.

In short, one could physically see and experience the whole life of Christ in Lund, and it was no longer necessary to go to the earthly Jerusalem; although of course the relics also had the opposite effect, actually inspiring more people than ever before to go on a pilgrimage or a Crusade.

The  transplantation of Jerusalem from the centre of the world to the geographical periphery worked, and in a relatively short time it attracted an amazing acceptance even from the centre of Christianity itself."

quotes from: Kurt Villads Jensen (2013). Martyrs, Total War, and Heavenly Horses.in: Scandinavia as Centre and Periphery in the Expansion of Medieval Christianity. Illustration shows King Sigurd and King Baldwin ride from Jorsalaborg to the Jordan River (source, Public Domain).

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