Jelling Mounds, Runic Stones and Church
Known as the “birth certificate” of Denmark as a nation, the largest of the two Jelling runic stones was erected by King Harald Bluetooth in the late 10th century as a commemoration of his unification of Norway and Denmark as one kingdom and of christening the Danish people. For these reasons Jelling holds unique value in Danish history as it has come to signify the thousand-year-old pillars of Danish identity: the unbroken lineage of the royal family, Christianity and the nation. In 1994, the monuments became a World Heritage Site.
Today the two runic stones stand encased in glass by the entrance of a small whitewashed Rom- anesque parish church built in limestone with a small church yard around it. Just a few meters north
and south of the church and stones lie two large burial mounds from the Viking Age, built for the parents of King Harald, his father King Gorm the Old who erected the smaller runic stone for his wife Queen Thyra. Through archaeological excavations in the late 20th and early 21st century a “stone ship” setting was unearthed. The decorative and monumental structure hails from the middle of the 10th century and consisted of large white granite boulders placed in a 356-meter-long ship formation. This was recreated as part of a wider archaeological and restorative enterprise in Jelling in the 2000s and 2010s along with a grander palisade wall that had encapsulated the current monument area, which now are represented by scattered white pillars in a 12-hectare rectangle shape.
Through ethnographic fieldwork and media analysis HERILIGION examines how secular national interests intersect with local and religious values in Jelling, for instance the reasons for and conse- quences of the demolishment of several houses by the monument area and the suppression of the main road through town. These all represent a quest to cleanse and beautify the monuments. HERILIGION questions how the Jelling monuments currently sacralize the Danish nation and its Viking ancestry as national cultural heritage and World Heritage.