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Ancient See of Viborg in Denmark

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The ancient See of Viborg, in Denmark, comprised the Province of Viborg, the town of Aalborg, and the hundreds of Fleskum, Hornum, Hellum, Hindsted, Aars, Gislum, and Slet in the Province of Aalborg. The hundreds of Gjerlev, Onsild, Nörhald, and Stövring in the Province of Randers also belonged to the Diocese of Viborg until 1396 when they were transferred to that of Aarhus. The diocese was founded in 1065 after the death of Bishop Vale (see ANCIENT SEE OF RIBE). Herbert was first Bishop of Viborg (1065-1100?). In 1080 St. Canute endowed the bishopric and chapter. The latter consisted of Canons Regular of St. Augustine. Bishop Svend I (1106-1112) was drowned in the Elbe by the Count of Stade, and Eskild (1112-33), who began rebuilding the cathedral about 1130, was murdered during Matins in the Church of St. Margaret by command of King Eric Emun. Svend II (1135-51) was succeeded as provost of the chapter by Willo, and he by St. Kjeld or Ketil (d. 27 Sept., 1150). Bishop Niels I (1153-91) was very generous towards his chapter. He founded the hospital of St. Michael, Viborg, in 1159, and the Cistercian nunnery of Asmild in 1169, and finished the original Romanesque cathedral, of which only the crypt now remains. It is also largely due to him that St. Kjeld was beatified, and his body translated to the shrine, suspended from the vaulting of his chapel on 11 July, 1189.

Bishop Gunner was one of the greatest men of his time. He was born in 1152 and educated at the University of Paris, where he acquired a great knowledge of law. In 1208 he entered the Cistercian Abbey of Öm (Cara Insula), of which he was chosen abbot in 1216. In 1222 he was elected Bishop of Viborg by the chapter on the advice of Cardinal Gregory of Crescentia. As bishop he devoted special care to the training of the clergy. He probably wrote out the Law of Jutland (Jydske Lov) and composed the original preface to it, and was present when it was published at Vordingborg in 1241. He died at Asmild, 25 Aug., 1251, and was buried in front of the shrine of St. Kjeld. Thorleif Olafssön (1438-50) was translated to Bergen, and succeeded at Viborg by Canute Mikkelsen (1451-78), dean of the Church of Our Lady at Copenhagen, and rector of the University of Erfurt in 1434. A great diplomatist and jurist, he was author of the Latin notes appended to the first two editions of the Law of Jutland and of a popular treatise on the plague. The last Catholic bishop was Jörgen Friis (1521-36). He was a worldly-minded man and quite unable to cope with the movement to which the preaching of Hans Tausen at Viborg (1525) gave rise. In 1530 the cathedral was in the possession of the Protestants. Friis retired to the Castle of Hald, where he was imprisoned in his own dungeon in 1536. Two years later he was released on promising to submit to the new order of things. In 1540 he was endowed with the lands of the Abbey of Vrejlev and some of the property of the see, and though he never married, he led the life of a lay nobleman until his death in 1547.

Though the Danish Reformation began at Viborg, certain Catholic usages were kept up in its cathedral longer than anywhere else in Denmark. The shrines of St. Kjeld and St. Willehad were removed to the choir of the cathedral in 1538, but Lutheran ministers continued to recite daily the Office of the Dead for the soul of King Eric Glipping (d. 1286) from 1560 to 1630. The Protestant Bishop Hans Wandal shortened and Protestantized the service and entrusted its performance to the senior curate of the cathedral and twelve of the school boys. These all benefited by the endowment, and continued the service until 1684. Of the twelfth-century cathedral nothing remains but the crypt. The upper church built in 1876 contains splendid frescoes by Joachim Skovgaard begun in 1895 and a seven-branched candlestick from 1494. The abbey church of Grinderslev, the Church of St. Botolph, at Aalborg, and numerous village churches are memorials of the Catholic past. At Karup there was a pilgrimage to Our Lady's Well. The chapter of the Cathedral of St. Mary and St. Kjeld was secularized in 1440, after which it consisted of a dean, an archdeacon, a precentor, and twelve secular canons. There were also at Viborg the Benedictine nunnery of St. Botolph, a Franciscan friary from 1235, and a Dominican friary from 1246, as well as the hospitals of St. Michael and of the Holy Ghost. At Aalborg there were a Benedictine nunnery and a Franciscan friary. The Cistercian Abbey of Vidskild (Vitae Scola) founded in 1158, the Augustinian abbey at Grinderslev founded before 1176, and the Augustinian nunnery of Asmild were all situated in the diocese, as were also the Benedictine (?) nunnery of Sibber, and the hospitals at Tesdrup and Karup. In 1523 there were 236 churches in the Diocese of Viborg. Now (1912) the Camillians have a church and hospital at Aalborg, while Viborg is one of their out-stations.


URSIN, Stiftstaden Viborg (Viborg, 1849); HEISE, Diplomatarium vibergense (Copenhagen, 1879); TRAP, Danmark, IV (Copenhagen, 1902); JORGENSEN, Den nordiske Kirkes Grundlaeggelse (2 vols., Copenhagen, 1874-78); GERTZ, Vitae sanctorum danorum (Copenhagen, 1908-12), 249-83; Vita Gunneri episcopi vibergensis in Scriptores rerum danicarum, V (Copenhagen, 1783), 574-80; BRICKA, Dansk biografisk Leksikon (19 vols., Copenhagen, 1887-1905); RORDAM, Nykirkehistoriske Samlinger, I (Copenhagen, 1857-59), 526-37; III (1864-66), 1-46, 292-367; V (1869-71), 522-81, 703-71; VI (1872-73), 716-32; Kirkehistoriske Samlinger, 3rd series, II (Copenhagen, 1877-80), 674-77; III (1881-82), 186-201; 4th series, V (1897-99), 84-125, 299-333; Samlinger til Jydsk Historie og Topographi, II (Aalborg, 1868-69), 97-107; 3rd series, I (Copenhagen, 1896-98), 485-93; V (1906- 08), 347-66; Historisk Tidskrift, 7th series, V (Copenhagen, 1904-05), 299-364; La cathedrale de Viborg (Ministry of Public Worship, Copenhagen, 1909), in Danish with a summary in French; PONTOPPIDAN, Marmora danica, II (Copenhagen, 1741), 191-252; DAUGAARD, Danske Klostre (Copenhagen, 1830).

About this page

APA citation. Taylor, A. (1914). Ancient See of Viborg in Denmark. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: The Encyclopedia Press.

MLA citation. Taylor, Arthur. "Ancient See of Viborg in Denmark." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 16 (Index). New York: The Encyclopedia Press, 1914. <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Herman F. Holbrook. For the glory of God and in honor of Saint Philomena.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. March 1, 1914. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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