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Round churches are not only unique in Bornholm or Denmark, but exist in different places across Europe. There are around twenty-two round churches in Europe alone. The prototype of the round church appears to be the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, also called the Church of the Resurrection of Eastern Orthodox Christians, located in Jerusalem, Israel.
This church was built in 336 BC. Built by order of Helena, mother of Constantine, then Emperor of Rome. The site was previously used by Hadrian in 135 BC. Erected Temple of Venus has been used. The Temple of Venus was demolished by Constantine and the church was built nearby. There is a story that the tomb of Christ is nearby based on the Gospel of John. Constantine also claimed to have found three crosses when the site was excavated.
Relationship with Knights Templar
Round churches are also associated with the Knights Templar who existed during the Crusades from 1119 to 1314. One of these churches in Rome is named after the St. Bernard of Clairvaux, a sponsor of the Knights Templar.
The round church of London was built by the Knights Templar in 1185. Rick Steve’s book Rome mentions a round church dedicated to Saint Stephen that was built over a Roman barracks around AD 410. the Knights Templar building a round church.
Bornholm, about 40 kilometers from Sweden but part of Denmark, was first discovered around 3600 BC. Settled. during the Neolithic. The island has many carved dolmens and symbols from that time. In the Middle Ages the island was called Burgundland or Burgunderholm. In the Middle Ages, the word “holm” was Danish for “island”. During the conversion of Denmark to Christianity under Harald Bluetooth, who lived between 935 and 985 or 956 AD, Denmark began building churches. However, Bornholm’s round churches were built later.
The most famous and oldest round church on Bornholm is the Østerlars Church, which was built around 1160 and originally dedicated to St. Laurentius was dedicated. The name was later changed to Østerlars to avoid confusion with the Ny Lars Church. The church consists of an apse, an oval church, a round nave and is three stories high. There is evidence that it was once fortified and that the top floor was a shooting range.
Construction of Østerlars
The date of construction of the church is based on some coins in the ground from 1157. The double arch is reminiscent of Lund Cathedral. The central column is adorned with frescoes or Kalmalerier from 1350 depicting biblical scenes from the Annunciation through the Passion and ending with the day of judgment, on which Christ judges humanity. Many of the naked figures are sent to Hell, where a giant dragon is waiting for them.
These frescoes had been hidden by whitewash since the Reformation and were exposed in 1882. The National Museum of Denmark did much of the work to uncover them.
Erling Haagensen, co-author of the Templars’ secret island, believed that there was a connection between the round churches of Bornholm and the Knights Templar. He believed that there were similarities between the geometric precision of the four round churches on Bornholm and those of the churches in Rennes-le-Chateau in France. He concludes that Østerlars and the other round churches on Bornholm could be used as camps for the Knights Templar during the Crusades.
Possible mystical connection to Christianity
Regardless of whether or not the Knights Templar had any influence on the construction of these round churches, there seems to be a mystical connection to churches in early Christianity, as one of the first churches was round. Experts have also postulated that the round shape was a form of defensive structure that may have been supported in Østerlars in its earlier form as a kind of fortress and with a shooting range on top.
However, the round shape is more difficult to build, and in the Middle Ages there were fortified buildings that were far more competent at protecting it. So we must continue to speculate until further research is done.
Other round churches on Bornholm
The other round churches on Bornholm are Nyker, Nylars and Olksker. They are all impressive and share some architectural features in common with Østerlars.