St NICHOLAS - in the Church of Udbyneder Denmark

The story of St Nicholaus the origin behind Santa Claus is a long story beginning in what today is the south coust of Turkey were Nicholas was born in the 3rd century. Nicholas was raised as a devout Christian and he dedicated his life to serve God and help the poor. Already as a young man he became the Bishop of Myra. As a bishop he became known for his generosity to the poor, his love for children, and his concern for sailors and ships.

Nicholaus died in 343 AD and his death day the 6th December is celebrated as St Nicholaus day in Christian communities all around the world. The stories and legends about him has made him one of the most populart Saints in all the world and hundreds of churches are named after him.

You also find him depicted in thousands of paintings, icons and sculptures since the 15th century.

Also in several of the Danish churches you see him on the murals from the 16th and 15th centuries like in the Udbyneder Church where he is painted as the protector of the sailors.

The story about how saint Nicholaus became Santa Claus is an even longer story which you can read about at the St Nicholaus Center website.



The church in Udbyneder was built in the first part of the 12th century. The church lies in a small village north of Randers in Jutland.

The frescoes in the quire are from last part of the 15 century while the other frescoes are made from 1500 to 1523.

View Udbyneder Kirke in a larger map

Church Wall paintings in Denmark
Danish frescoes
Danske Kalkmalerier

Denmark probably has the largest amount of medieval wall paintings in Europe. In Danish they are called Kalkmalerier = Lime paintings, as they are painted on a layer of limewash. Most of these paintings are from churches and Denmark has about 1700 preserved medieval churches. Most of them has probably been decorated with wall paintings.

Today we have about 600 churches with visible paintings and there are probably many undiscovered paintings behind the many layers of lime wash which was used during the 18th and 19th centuries to cover the paintings.

Why cover them?
Perhaps a change in taste, but as you will see, some of the paintings also were very obscene and grotesque which during the pietistic 18th century was considered not suitable for a church.

The oldest paintings from 1100-1300 are of Romanesque type and were painted by painters imported from south Europe, but during 1300 -1600 it changed to a Gothic style and Danish painters took over and developed there own style.

The very first wall painting which was uncovered in Denmark was in the Cathedral of Roskilde in 1826. The Cathedral is one of the 3 Unesco World Heritage sites in Denmark.

The oldest painting in Denmark is from around 1100 and was found in the church of Jelling in 1874. The Jelling Church, the burial mounds and Jelling stones is ALSO a Danish World Heritage site. The paintings in the church today is a reconstruction as it was not possible to save them with the methods they had in 1874.

Introduction to the restoration of Danish wall paintings
by Kirsten Trampedach - National Museum of Denmark

Danske Kalkmalerier a database by Axel Bolvig at the University of Copenhagen


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