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Alling Abbey

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Alling Abbey was one the last Benedictine monasteries to be built in Denmark. It was located at Alling, near Silkeborg.

History

Alling Abbey, dedicated to Saint John, was built at the lower end of Alling Lake near the town of Svostrup sometime before 1250. There was a connection between the closure of Vejerslev Abbey in 1231 and the building of the abbey at Alling which was partially filled with 'unruly' monks from Vejerslev. The constructed abbey is mentioned first in 1250.

The abbey was constructed in the familiar pattern. Three ranges adjoined St. John's Church forming a four-sided enclosure to separate the monks from the world. The east range contained the chapter hall and dormitory. The north range was the refectory, work area, perhaps scriptorium, and cellars for storage. The west range housed the lay brothers who lived in the abbey and performed much of the worldly work required to keep the monastery operating. To the south was St. John's Church, with a single nave, choir and angular apse. It had no tower. Since the abbey was isolated from any town, the church was used only by the monks or occasional travellers. Women were not permitted, except on holy days. A canal was dug from Grønbæk to bring fresh water to the monastery and then carry it off to Alling Lake.

Over the centuries the abbey came into possession of many farms and owned the rights to most of the churches in the area. For most of the time the abbey had running disputes with the Bishops of Århus over income properties.

The Danish Reformation in 1536 brought all religious institutions and their income properties to the crown. In 1538 Abbot Hans Lauridsen, the abbey's last, turned the keys over to Johannes Hŏcken, a secular nobleman (lensmand) to look after the king's interest in the property. He then took off his habit and became the first Lutheran pastor at Svostrup Church. The monks were permitted to remain for a time until the abbey was closed sometime before 1540.

The property was mortgaged to Johan Hŏcken in 1539 and 1543. The mortgage was redeemed by Jakob Berthelsen, bailiff of Silkeborg Castle in 1573 and the entire abbey was razed for the building materials that could be sold from the site. The archives of the abbey were moved to Silkeborg Castle, inventoried in the late 1500s, and then disappeared. A few letters between abbots and other church leaders exist in the State Archive.

Several excavations, the latest in 1989, identified the abbey's precise location, so that it has been completely mapped. The site has been protected as a national historic location since 1901. Portions of the foundation have been left exposed so visitors can see how the abbey was laid out.

Sources

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