The message of Christianity has arrived in Ripa
Ripa Marketplace has long been a centre for local and international trade. Over the years more and more followers of White Christ have arrived, and some of the locals have even adopted the new faith and agreed to be baptised.
The situation occasionally gives rise to discussions and conflicts with those Vikings keeping to the old gods. Most of the traders, however, believe their interests best served by maintaining a low profile. Take the silversmith for example. He makes both Thor's hammers and Christian crosses depending on the customer's wish.
The latest excavations at the cathedral in Ribe have revealed surprising new knowledge of early Christianity in Denmark. Many Christian graves from the 9th century were found and analyses show that the deceased had been brought up locally. This proves that at least 100 years before King Harold Bluetooth had the Jelling-Runestone erected and proclaimed his conversion of the Danes to Christianity, Christian Danes already existed.
From paganism to Christianity
Ribe's close commercial relations to Dorestad and the area along the Rhine meant that many Ribe-inhabitants knew of Christianity. Among the foreign traders visiting Ribe must also have been many Christians who appreciated the possibility to visit a church and meet with fellow believers. Some traders wouldn't even do business with pagans. In other words: in the middle of the 800s, there were several good reasons for the Danish King Horik to grant the bishop and missionary Ansgar permission to build churches in the main trading settlements. First in Haithabu (Hedeby) and about 10 years later in Ribe.
The majority of the people still kept to the old Norse gods including Odin and Thor. However, because of the vast number of Christian graves found, the archaeologists estimate the Christian parish in Ribe and hinterland to have included up to several thousand people. The size of the churchyard also indicate that the church in Ribe probably was the main church for a large territory, maybe even all of Jutland.
The remains of the church built by Ansgar in 855-860 AD are most likely hidden under the present Ribe Cathedral.
Reconstruction of Ansgar Church
Even though there is no actual finds of Ansgar church, there still is sufficient general knowledge of church building in the 9th century for Ribe VikingeCenter to make a qualified reconstruction of Ansgar Church, 860 AD.
The size and construction of the church is based on a find in Tostedt near Hamburg where Ansgar was bishop. The church decoration is a combination of Nordic wood carvings on the outside and continentally inspired paintings inside the church.
The reconstruction of Ripa Harbour, 750 AD as well as Ansgar Church, 860 AD are the two major elements in Ribe VikingeCenter's project 'Denmark's first Christians". The reconstruction work takes place from 2015 till the end of 2017 and is supported by A.P. Møller og Hustru Chastine Mc-Kinney Møllers Fond til almene Formaal.