The history of the Church of Our Lady Odense

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Our Ladys church, Odense

Church of Our Lady (Danish: Vor Frue kirke) is assumed to be the oldest church of Odense. In the earliest Christian times, it was common that the first church in a major city was dedicated to the church’s chief saint: Virgin Mary or Our Lady.

Church of Our Lady is assumed to be the oldest church in Odense, and had a unique position by being attached to one of the island’s two deaneries.

Originally the Church of Our Lady was built just within the city limits and outside this was Saint George Yard, (Danish: Skt. Jørgensgården) a leprosy hospital. For St. Jørgensgården was attached a church which probably were served by priests of the Church of Our Lady.

After some English Benedictine monks had learned Danes burning brick, the current church was built around 1250 as a cruciform church. A large amount of ashlar stones from the original church was inserted between the bricks. On some of them are still seen examples of stone-carving from the oldest stone church.

Next to the Church of Our Lady is a Catechetical School, the oldest surviving secular building in Odense. The school was established in 1308 as a school (in the lounge) and residential (on first floor).

The school’s first function was probably to act as a sort of seminary for priests. The current building dates from 1528, and the Danish Reformer Hans Tausen had his schooling here.

The students were given free tuition towards a daily commitment to choral singing in the church. In 1860 the building was converted into a mortuary and teaching continued on the other side of the street, Overgade 66. In 1996, the grammar school became a part of the Parish House of Our Lady.