In 1999 a group of dedicated medieval craftsmen built a trebuchet, a siege weapon to mark the 700th anniversary of the nearby town. Out of this grew the present open-air museum dedicated to telling the story of medieval life c. 1400.
The Medieval Centre in Denmark is an impressive open-air museum dedicated to demonstrating all facets of medieval life as it would have unfolded in a small provincial city, Sundkøbing, c. 1400.
The town is thus complete with workshops, a hostelry, an inn – the Golden Swan – a weaver’s cottage, a blacksmith, as well as a small harbour with a merchant’s house, a rope-maker, boats, and a ship. Surrounded by lush medieval herbal gardens and buzzing bees, all is faithfully recreated by professional archaeologists and historians. Thus, the ship – Agnete – was built according to a wreck found at Gedesby by a group of shipbuilders in collaboration between the National Museum of Denmark and the Medieval Centre. Surrounding the centre is a tournament field, an archery range and a field with trebuchets plus a medieval technological centre showcasing life-size models of medieval technological inventions.
The leading principle is authenticity, and the centre is remarkable for its achievements on this score. For instance, visitors are not encouraged to show up dressed in medieval garb. Only licensed re-enactors, whose dress and costumes the Centre has authenticated, are allowed. The reason is that the Centre does not wish for an experience, which is “chronologically” garbled or mixed up with fantasy (Game of Thrones). If you as a guest want to visit The Medieval Centre in medieval clothes, the dress (Photo) has to be approved. (Small children are exempt from this)
Building a Church
A current project is the faithful recreation of a small church built to measure of a pilgrimage church on the Island of Falster, the church at Kippinge. Although founded in the 13th century and rebuilt several times, its main part retains its Gothic character, and the plan is to reconstruct it faithfully as it looked at the end of the 14th century.
This church was famous for its local spring, dedicated to St. Severinus, a local Danish saint. According to the legend, he was a monk from Antvorskov Abbey, who had been travelling to the Holy Land. On his way back he fell asleep near a hill. When he woke up, a source sprang from the ground. In Medieval Denmark, several markets were held near pilgrimage churches with holy springs nearby and dedicated to St Søren; as was the case at Kippinge.
Volunteers, Events and Courses
A large group of volunteers, who people the medieval town during summer, plays an important role. A few years ago this group was on an investigative tour to Plimoth Plantation to learn about role-playing. Following this, recent years has seen an upgrade in activities, e.g. an intervention about the plague, which tries to demonstrate to visitors the horrifying consequences of the Black Death. Another Important element is the will to let religion play a role. Very few open-air museums allow for the fact that people in the past were steeped in religion. However, at Sundkøbing the visitor will be able to experience people who are roleplaying as monks, nuns and priests servicing the inhabitants at Sundkøbing.
The Medieval Centre is famous for its regular programme – the daily demonstration of medieval weaponry, the inn, which serves real medieval food, and the daily market stalls, which are open in the summer. However, all through the season the Centre also offers more treats like sailing with Agnete in the evening or the public butchering of sheep in September. All this is organised by the centre but carried out by the vlunteers.
To become a volunteer – or dedicated medieval living historian – there is also the possibility during winter to become a member of the team. As part of this, you are treated to a weekend course as well as more special seminars and excursions during winter, leading up to your work at the centre. Participation entails that you pay a small fee, and spend (at least) one the weekend in spring as well as a full week at the Centre (free board and food). Obligatory membership of the local guild is also a precondition. As a member, you are also invited to become part of the more specialised guilds organising archers, painters and production of colours, gardeners, artists, re-enactors, music, rope-makers, sail-makers, smiths, tradespeople, and weavers.
This setup is unique and offers a well-worked out model to organise volunteers on other such centres and open-air museums.
From the Centre
Ved Hamborgskoven 2-4
4800 Nykøbing Falster
Tlf: 54 86 19 34
The Medieval Support Association