Harbour and church to be reconstructed


Ribe VikingeCenter is about to build Ripa Harbour and then Ansgar's Church

Ribe VikingeCenter will now (Spring 2015) begin the reconstruction of two brand new Viking environments: Ripa Harbour, 770 AD and Ansgar's Church, 865 AD. Of course, this is a brilliant opportunity for us to tell and stage the story of how the well-organized marketplace in Ripa (the Viking name for Ribe) became a bustling commercial port and later the base for the spread of Christianity to the rest of Denmark.

The reconstruction work will take three years to complete. From a historical point of view, however, those three years will be equivalent to a period of approx. 100 years in Ribe's history. During that time exciting epoch-making events took place in Ribe and shaped Danish history. Why? Because trade and shipping as well as a new social structure became the key elements to economic growth in Denmark, and because Christianity was first introduced in the country of the Danes.

Meet the Viking builders

The reconstructions will be carried out by Viking builders. During Ribe VikingeCenter's opening hours, visitors will be able to meet them and see how the work is progressing. Needless to say, all the work will be done using only replica Viking Age tools and authentic working methods. No doubt it will be tough work, but it will also be an exciting project. We will be trying out and demonstrating 1000 years old methods and solid workmanship. Another word for that is experimental archaeology.

In case you are not able to visit Ribe VikingeCenter in person, do not fret. You will have the opportunity to follow the builders and the reconstruction work on Facebook.

Step one: the harbour

The first step of the project will be reconstructing Ripa Harbour, because that is how it all began. In the 700s, the marketplace in Ripa was a profitable business. The town government realized it would be an even better business with a harbour where bigger and more ships could land.

We have just finished digging out a lake of approx. 2000 sq.m., which is to represent a section of Ribe River. On the 'river bank' is where the harbour with piers and warehouse will be built. We have also extended the marketplace to cover an area of 9000 sq.m. Closest to the harbour we will build stalls and workshops.

Step two: the church

While Ripa developed into an international trading centre of economic and political significance, Christianity moved closer from the south and was introduced by foreign traders and the missionary Ansgar. In 855 AD the King granted him permission to build a church in Ripa - the first in present Denmark.

In 2016 Ribe VikingeCenter will build that church - Ansgar's church.

But the Vikings worshipped the Norse gods, so how come the church is so important? Because only recently, evidence of early Christian Danes was discovered. Ansgar's church is a symbol of the Christian presence and the conversion from Asatru to Christianity. And it all happened in Ripa!

Rewriting Danish history

In 2012 archaeologists from the Museums of Southwest Jutland made a remarkable discovery in Ribe. During an extensive dig close to Ribe Cathedral, they found a well-preserved Christian burial site from the Viking Age. So far, the oldest Christian graves that have been excavated in Denmark. Isotope analysis later concluded the graves to date back to the middle of the 800s and that the dead had been brought up locally.

So we are not dealing with foreign Christians who found their final resting place in Ripa, but local Christian citizens. Christian Vikings actually existed long before first assumed and about 100 years before Harold Bluetooth erected the big rune stone in Jelling in 965 AD.

Living history

Authenticity and engaging interpretation is the trademark of Ribe VikingeCenter, and our reason for reconstructing a harbour and a church is more than anything a desire to tell the true story about Viking Ripa. That is why all our Viking environments are 'inhabited' by Viking interpreters demonstrating the life and work of the Danes 1000-1300 years ago.

But surely a credible historical presentation includes more than building a house, demonstrating a craft, cooking soup over the fire and driving a bullock cart. At least that is what we think. Viking everyday life is many-faceted and it is the interactive presentation of human relations that makes storytelling truly interesting and gives observers something to relate to.

Like stepping back in time

Ripa was a bustling place back then in the 700s and 800s. Strangers with different cultures, religions, languages and world views met, did business, discussed, formed alliances and rolled their eyes at each other. Meanwhile Ripa citizens lived a life of chores, conflicts, storms, drought, hunger, illness, death, love, celebration, frustration and disbelief. What were their thoughts, what did they talk about and how did they react?

Well you may try to imagine the setting or you can visit Ribe VikingeCenter and experience history as it is brought back to life right in front of you. Our dramaturgist and interpreters do daily acting sketches to involve and explain the everyday life to the viewers. When visiting Ribe VikingeCenter you may suddenly find yourself being offered a load of pots in the marketplace, or you may witness a tragic accident at the building site. You can never tell what is going to happen, but you are more than welcome to play along.

Discover life in Ripa - also on Facebook

As an introduction to the story of Ripa Harbour - and to get your imagination going - we have created a short film 'The vision of a harbour'. It introduces you to Ask, a young man who has left Haithabu (Hedeby) to start a new life in Ripa. He has a vision of a great harbour in Ripa, and the Earl seizes the opportunity to begin building.

The film was made entirely in Ribe VikingeCenter featuring just one professional actor. The rest of the cast are the Viking interpreters in Ribe VikingeCenter and the students at the Lustrupholm School of Production.

And remember: You can meet Ask, the builders and the rest of the Ripa citizens in Ribe VikingeCenter! Discover the marketplace, visit the shoemaker's house and see for yourself how the harbour project is coming on.

The stage is set for new adventures and we promise to regularly report on Ask and his new life in Ripa on www.facebook.com/ribevikingecenter.

Watch the film 'The vision of a harbour'.


The reconstruction of Ripa Harbour and Ansgar's Church is made possible by a generous donation of DKK 10 mill. by the A.P. Møller Foundation.

The archaeological excavations in Ribe VikingeCenter as well as the establishment of the lake is funded by the Municipality of Esbjerg.

The making of the film was co-funded by the project: Destination Sydvestjylland - samarbejdsformer for succes, which is funded by the European Regional Development Fund as well as The Southern Denmark Growth Forum.