Denmark

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I lectured at the University of Jena on Thursday, and on Friday I flew to Billund in Denmark. Dr. Jørgen Bøytler met me at the airport and drove me to the Moravian settlement of Christiansfeld in the middle of Jutland. It was built after the death of Zinzendorf, around the same time as Salem in North Carolina, and the church put a lot of energy into building it. In many ways it is the culmination of Moravian town planning. There are two parallel main streets with the square in the center. One of the streets connected to the King’s Highway, and there is still a hotel there to welcome non-Moravian visitors. The streets originally opened into the fields so that as you walked through town you easily had a view of nature. The buildings are all built of special yellow (or white) Danish bricks, which makes the town very bright and cheerful. The Moravians began with building the large buildings on the square: the church Saal, Sisters House, Brothers House, Widows House, and homes for the pastor and town manager. There is a fountain in the middle of the square.

Several years ago the congregation began an extensive renovation project funded by grants from large foundations. We went into the attic of the Saal to see the ingenious architecture that allowed the Moravians to construct the largest room without pillars in northern Europe. They’ve spent about $50 million on the buildings, streets, and interior of the settlement. Now it is a UNESCO World Heritage site and receives lots of visitors. The Saal is currently being renovated so we had worship in the Saal in the Sister’s House, which is one of the most beautiful Moravian rooms I’ve ever seen. I was so happy to see that they still use sand to clean the unfinished hardwood floors! I was very impressed with the ways they combined modern upgrades in all of the buildings and modern usages while preserving the historical character of each building. So the Sisters House has a missions shop on the first floor and modern archive upstairs. They had a sophisticated fire control system that allowed them to keep all of the wooden doors. Christiansfeld is not a museum like Old Salem; it is a living town of 4000 people. There is a wonderful bakery with a chocolatier of international reputation; various kinds of shops from necessities to tourist items to more upscale items. The overall impression is that this is a place where it would be good live and raise children. The pastor’s house had also been renovated and may be the most beautiful parsonage I’ve seen, and it has antique furniture that has been passed down through the ages.

The Bøytlers were very gracious hosts and provided me with a guest room upstairs. We sat in the garden each night talking as long as it was light, which meant past 11 p.m. On Saturday Jørgen took me on a tour of Jutland. We started in Jelling to see Harard Bluetooth’s rune stone proclaiming that his people would Christians. There is a fabulous new Viking museum there. And then we drove to Ribe to see the cathedral and have afternoon coffee. After that we went to the West Coast driving through beautiful fields and marshlands. I got to wade in the North Sea. On Sunday we went to worship and I was included in a family reunion luncheon at the parsonage. Then I took the train to Copenhagen! I certainly hope that I will get to return to Christiansfeld for a longer stay.

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