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Checkered Denmark

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.

Nord Jutland

Svenstrup Kirke Onsild



The church contains two checkered stones.

Veggerby Kirke Hornum


Topic Data
Address
Hornum
12 km south of Nibe
Region

Age
Circa 1200
Location stone

Link




Sønderhå Kirke Snedsted


Topic Data
Address
Hørstedvej 86, Sønderhå, 7752 Snedsted
Region

Age
Circa 1200
Location stone

Link



Sønderhå Kirke is the only church with 4 checkered stones.

Skivum kirke

Skivum kirke Himmerland



Hillerslev kirke

Hillerslev kirke Skovstedvej 4, Hillerslev.



Nors Kirke - Nors

Nors Kirke is built between 1000 and 1200. 


The checkered stone is on the towers west-side.

Skallerup kirke

Skallerup kirke Grønne Klitvej 304, 9800 Hjørring. The church was built in the middle of the 12th century.


The church contains 3 checkered stones, of which two in the north wall.


Mejlby kirke

Mejlby kirke ca. 10 km nord of Århus.



Vilsted Kirke

Vilsted Kirke, Kirkebakken, 9670 Løgstør.


One of the two checkered stones. The shown stone is one of the few with an irregular pattern.


Bejstrup kirke

Bejstrup kirke ab. 10 km southeast of Fjerritslev.



Bislev Kirke

Bislev Kirke Kirkebjergevej 3 - Bislev - 9240 Nibe, was built around 1100.


Kongens Tisted Kirke

Kongens Tisted Kirke Elbjergvej 3 - Kgs Tisted - 9610 Nørager, built around 1100.

Kettrup Kirke

Kettrupvej 80 - Kettrup - 9690 Fjerritslev, was built around 1100.



Viborg

Roum Kirke near Hobro

Roum Kirke Roumvej 13 - Roum - 9632 Møldrup, is built around 1100.

Roum Kirke near Hobro

Grønning Kirke

Grønning Kirke Roslev, 7870 Roslev, Denmark. Built in 1100 century.


Gerning Kirke

Gerning Kirke Ringsøhøjvej 3 - Gerning - 8850 Bjerringbro, build around 1100.


Spentrup Kirke in Spentrup

Spentrup Kirke Hastrupvej 1 - 8981 Spentrup, built around 1150.


A checkered stone is in the south wall.

*** Picture follows

Ørum Kirke

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.

Grinderslev Kirke, Salling, Nørre

Grinderslev Kirke Klostervej 35 - Breum - 7870 Roslev, built in 1100 century.


Fovlum Kirke

Fovlum Kirke Hestbækvej 133 - Foulum - 9640 Farsø, was built around 1170.


Falslev

*** Details follow

Arhus

Nørbæk Kirke Nørbeg in Fårup Randers


Topic Data
Address
Hviddingvej 5, Nørbæk, 8990 Fårup
Region
Randers - Arhus
Age
11th century
Location stone

Link








Ølst Church

Topic Data
Address

Region

Age

Location stone

Link




Spørring kirke, Vester Lisbjerg

Topic Data
Address
Spørring Kirkevej 2, Spørring 8380 Trige
Vester Lisbjerg
Region
Arhus
Age
Circa 1200
Location stone
1 Apsis topside
2 Apsis downside
Link
http://da.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sporring_Kirke



Odekirke Randrup Kirke ruin

The church ruin near Randrup is probably from around 1200. The checkered church stone is now in the Randers Museum.


Tilst Kirke Hasle

Tilst church was built arond 1170 possibly upon an old sun worship place.

Topic Data
Address
Bysmedevej 57, 8381 Tilst
Region
Arhus
Age
Circa 1170
Location stone
corner of the apsis
Link
http://www.tilstkirke.dk/




Støvring Kirke

Støvring Kirke Murhusbakken 12 - Støvring - 8930 Randers. Built in 1200 century.



Vivild kirke

Vivild Church dates from around 1100 in Norddjurs. The church is located at the highest point in town.


Vestjaelland

Fjenneslev kirke


Murals from 1150-1200 (rest. 1947).

Bornholm

Povlskirke

The church was build around 1250 in romanesque style. This church has a chessboard with a backgammon board beneath it.



Other Churches

The location is unknown, but probably in the neighborhood of  Vitskøl Monastery.

  • Sahl Kirke: a checkered stone in the south wall. Built around 1130

Map

Sources

Who
Source
 Status  Link
Thyra
Chess Board on Jutland Churches Original pictures
thyrashm.blogspot.com
JC Schou
Original pictures biopix.dk
  Denmarks churches
Data source
korttilkirken.dk

http://www.biopix.dk/category.asp?category=arkaeologihistorie
http://hjorthlarsen.blogspot.com/2010/02/skaktavlkvadrer.html
http://da.wikipedia.org/wiki/N%C3%B8rb%C3%A6k_Kirke
http://www.viborgstift.dk/maanedens-kirke/roum-kirke-maj-2007.html
http://aalborgstift.dk/Kirker/thisted/hillerslev/stenbilleder.php
http://aalborgstift.dk/Kirker/thisted/nors/gravsten.php
http://aalborgstift.dk/Kirker/sydthy/soenderhaa/skaktavle.php
http://danskekirker.blogspot.com/2010/01/svenstrup-kirke-stjylland-randers-amt.htm
lhttp://aalborgstift.dk/Kirker/hj-soendre/skallerup/historie.php
http://danskekirker.blogspot.com/2010/01/mejlby-kirke-stjylland-randers-amt.html
http://thyrashm.blogspot.com/2009_07_01_archive.html
http://thyrashm.blogspot.com/2009/07/bejstrup-church-vendsyssel-north.html
http://danskekirker.blogspot.com/2009/12/grinderslev-kirke-og-eskrsalling-viborg.html
http://www.biopix.dk/Species.asp?Searchtext=Stoevring%20Kirke&Category=ArkaeologiHistorie
http://www.kalkmalerier.dk/middelalderstift.php
http://www.biopix.dk/photo.asp?photoid=9250&photo=bislev-kirke
http://www.brigitte-dittmar.de/Ausflug/Kirche/Bornholm/Bornholm.htm
http://www.festsange-cordua.dk/uk/side_UK.php?id=29
http://danskekirker.blogspot.com/
http://www.anefund.dk
http://www.nordenskirker.dk/Tidligere/Mejlby_kirke/Skaktavlkvadre.htm
http://www.roskildehistorie.dk/1000/billeder/bisper/biskop1a.htm
http://www.si-games.com/forums/showthread.php?t=15462
http://www.hikuin.dk/romanske_stenarbejder.asp

Search terms

Danish: skaktern, skaktavle, fandens spillebrædt, skakbræt, skaktavlkvader, kragsten