Sankt Olai Kirke (Church of Saint Olai)

With its tall tower, the Sankt Olai church is highly visible in the cityscape. The church was erected in the 1200s, and is one of the city's most important relics from the middle ages. In 1961 the church was promoted to cathedral in the newly created Diocese of Elsinore.

When Erik af Pommern started tolling travel the strait of Øresund, Sankt Olai Kirke transformed. The church had to match Elsinore’s growing importance, and in 1450, 1521 and 1559 the church was expanded several times.

In 1600 the catholic furniture and inventory was replaced, and today the church is known for its many civic portraits.

In the beginning of the 1600s the expansion was complete, when the small, crow-stepped tower was equipped with an impressive spire in 1614, even taller than the current spire’s 69 meters.

The Spire received the name ”Helsingørs jomfru” (The virgin of Elsinore), and was the symbol of Elsinore until 1736, where it was knocked down by the wind. The next 162 years, Sankt Olai had no spire. The current spire was erected in 1888.

Since 1961, Sankt Olai Church has had the status of cathedral, since northern Sealand was split into two Diocese: The Diocese of Copenhagen and the Diocese of Elsinore.

Due to the later population growth, the Diocese of Elsinore is Denmark’s largest today. Besides the standard church service, Skt. Olai also hosts a number of classical concerts.

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The escavations

The church has more than 19 crypts, some of which are private burial chambers. The first originate from when the church was completed in the last half of the 1500s. Burials within the church ended in 1805, and the graves were left untouched for more than 200 years, until a historical examination was begun in 2000-01. It discovered that the corpses and their garb, due to the dry environment, were surprisingly intact, giving us a great deal of knowledge about the citizens of Elsinore in the 1700s and their burial customs.

The Skull

On the eastern gable of the church, one can find one of the above-mentioned body parts, showing the way to the French consul’s basement. Here consul Jacob Hansen and his wife, Maria Buhr, lies buried. The wrought iron grate bears the mark of mayor Jørgen Buhr and Anne Hansdatters initials, and the year 1679 is inscribed. The skull adornment is here, like in so many other places, a symbol of death. The skull and crossbones aims to make us consider the fact that all life has an end. The French text might be translated into English as ”Thus we shall all become”.