Denmark and the former Danish territories in Sweden and Norway contain many churches from the 11th and 12 century with checkered stones. The style of these stones is very comparable with the checkered stones which can be found in Germany and Poland. The stones give the impression of mason marks, and in these churches often other marks can be found. Some of them clearly christian like crosses. However the spread in area and time almost excludes that one group of people was responsible for them.
In a work from the National Museum about Danish churches a Danish historian M. Mackeprang , once the director of the National Museum, wrote about the chess boards. At that time he counted 22 churches with chess boards, mainly from North Jutland. Later in 1983 the number was increased to 35. The spreading of the chess boards shows a marked attachment to North Jutland, and outside this area are only known one at Bornholm (Povlskirken ) and a few in Norway and Sweden. But some people thought it was still not investigated properly, so a Jutland newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, started a research - the result was some ten new examples, which did not disturb the original picture though. Up to date 45 churches in Jutland are registered with chess boards, six churches have two examples and four have three examples, the full amount is 59.
The placing of the chess boards upon the church walls seem random chosen, but rebuildings and replacements might have changed things essentially. The chess pattern varies in form and size, the biggest is 53x132 cm. The 8x8 squares, like a common chess board, seem to exist in only one example. The chess boards are found both in squares and rectangles. The inner small squares are sometimes surrounded by other geometric figures, triangles, circles and alike - and these also fill in areas at times. South of Aarhus and in a straight line to Thyborøn by the North Sea there isn't one example of a chess board upon a church, neither in south Jutland or at the islands, except for one example at Bornholm. The chess board in Povlskirken at Bornholm is 8x8 squares, but just below is another carving, a complete perfect example of, what we today know as Backgammon. This really looks as if the stone mason meant it to be a board game. The carved ashlar is of the same black silurchalkstone from which the church was built, so nothing suggests that this board game wasn't there from the beginning.
Chess boards of the North Jutland type are seen in a few Swedish and Norwegian churches, i.e. Rydaholm in Sweden, and three in Norway, all situated in Østfold. In one of the Norwegian churches is furthermore found an ashlar with the runic inscription "Odinkar", a name which in Norway is known only from this one find, while it was common in Denmark in the Viking period and the Middle Ages. The chess boards are early medieval, but it is not possible to give some exact limitation about the dating - since the dating of just one example often causes trouble. How did they arise, and what do they mean? They cannot be one man's work, although it sometimes happens that local ideas set a fashion.
The church contains two checkered stones.
Sønderhå Kirke is the only church with 4 checkered stones.
The checkered stone is on the towers west-side.
The church contains 3 checkered stones, of which two in the north wall.
One of the two checkered stones. The shown stone is one of the few with an irregular pattern.
A checkered stone is in the south wall.
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The church was built around 1100. Ørumvej 120, Nr Ørum, 7840 Højslev
On the ship's southern corner sits a checkered stone. with 7 x 11 fields.
Tilst church was built arond 1170 possibly upon an old sun worship place.
Vivild Church dates from around 1100 in Norddjurs. The church is located at the highest point in town.
Murals from 1150-1200 (rest. 1947).
The location is unknown, but probably in the neighborhood of Vitskøl Monastery.