The four medieval round churches on the Danish island Bornhoim were built in the 12th and 13th centuries. All four churches are still used for religious service, but are open to the public at other times. Learn more about the round churches of Bornholm, Denmark.
Østerlars Church just over 4km (2 ½ miles) southwest from Gudhjem, is the largest of the ‘round churches’ of Bornholm, which include Nylars Nyker and Olsker.
Places of refuge
When the Slavic Wends ravaged the island they were occasionally used as places of refuge, and in the 14th-16th century Hanseatic merchants from northern Germany would move in during the herring season.
At Østerlars the enormous support pillars create the impression of a fortress, which was the second purpose of the structure. Inside the church (built around 1150), the vault is painted with fine frescoes of biblical scenes.
On the north wall of the oval-shaped choir, stone steps lead to the second storey where the hollow central pillar has two entrances. The outer wall has a watchman’s gallery. The double altarpiece, originally from 1882, was painted by the local artist Poul Hom in 1973.
Introduction to the medieval age
If you’re here with children, drop in on the nearby Bornholms Middelaldercenter, an activity-packed introduction to the medieval age. The reconstructed town comes alive in summer, with craft demonstrations, performances, a bustling July market, bonfires and booming cannons.
The Round Churches of Bornholm, Denmark, written by Tor Kjolberg