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Jelling Mounds, Runic Stones and Church

By Julia Bocchese

What is the Jelling Mounds site?

The Jelling Mounds, Runic Stones, and Church are one of the most important sites in Danish and Scandinavian history. It’s the place where King Harald Bluetooth declared Denmark both a unified and Christian country in the year 965.

Jelling was the royal seat of the first Danish kings. King Harald Bluetooth’s declaration set the precedent for the rest of the Scandinavian countries for unifying under rulers and becoming Christianized.  

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A modern sculpture in the foreground: white cylindrical poles with points pointing upwards, two different heights. Behind that, a mound, covered in grass. A few people, looking very small, stand on top of the mound.

The mounds are the burial chambers of Gorm and Thyra, King Harald’s parents, but they were excavated with no remains found. The church isn’t the original building, but it stands in the same spot where King Harald built his wooden church.

The real gems of Jelling are the runic stones, also called the Jelling Stones. The first stone was erected by Gorm in memory of Thyra, and the second and third stones were erected by King Harald Bluetooth. They are the original runic stones that King Harald had carved to document the unification and Christianization of Denmark, and they are referred to as “Denmark’s birth certificate.”

Two of the Jelling runic stones, both large rocks set into a rock-paved floor. Each has its own glass-sided case. The left-hand one has swirly images, the right has runes.

Why is it a UNESCO World Heritage site?

The transition from pagan to Christian beliefs, according to the UNESCO listing, “is vividly illustrated by the successive pagan burial mounds, one pagan runic stone, another commemorating the introduction of Christianity, and the emergence of the church representing Christian predominance.”

You can read more about the history and visiting the site here.

The church at Jelling is white and is made of 3 rectangular parts set end to end. The one on the right is a bit squarer than the other two and a bit taller and has a small cross on its peaked roof. There are few windows and they are small: one on the left-hand part, 3 on the middle and one on the right-hand section.

What can you expect on a visit to the Jelling Mounds site?

I personally am very interested in the Viking Age and studied the Jelling Stones before I saw them, so I really enjoyed visiting the Jelling Mounds, Runic Stones, and Church. Without knowing the history, it might not seem like a very impressive site, so I recommend learning the history or visiting the nearby museum beforehand.

The Jelling Stones are outside encased in glass, so you can’t get the best pictures of them, which is a little disappointing but understandable to protect the stones.

Is Jelling worth visiting?

If you’re interested in the Viking Age, Jelling is worth making a trip for. It isn’t near any major cities, so it might not be worth a trip if you’re not the most interested in the Vikings.

Inside the church in Jelling: the top half the walls on the 3 visible sides of the altar are painted with religious imagery and decorative borders. The altar is surrounded by a low stone circle and a railing inside of that.

What sorts of travelers would like it?

Travelers interested in history will enjoy Jelling the most.

Tips for visiting

I recommend going early to avoid crowds. You won’t have to walk very far, but sturdy shoes would be beneficial if you want to climb to the top of the mounds. The museum Kongernes Jelling is near the historic sites; it has free admission and is worth visiting to get more context behind the Vikings and Jelling.

Use the map below to book your accommodations in Jelling or nearby Vejle:

Where is the Jelling Mounds site?

The address of the sites is Thyrasvej 1, 7300 Jelling, Denmark. Jelling is about seven miles from the town of Vejle. Aarhus is one of the closest major cities at an hour’s drive away, and Copenhagen is close to a three-hour drive away. There isn’t direct public transportation to Jelling, and there isn’t much to see in the town other than the historic sites and museum.

Text: Jelling Mounds, Runic Stones and Church, Denmark. Images: two of the runic stones above, a modern art piece in front of one of the mounds below.

For more information about The Jelling Mounds, Runic Stones, and Church, their opening hours and admission fees, see the official website.

Have you been to Jelling Mounds UNESCO site? If so, do you have any additional information or advice about it? Please add your comments below!

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