Canute’s Odense – City of the Vikings

Canute’s Odense – City of the Vikings is Odense City Museums’ title for the framework of research and dissemination focussed on the earliest phases of Odense. This work began at the launch of the major archaeological investigations connected with a large urban transformation project, From Street to City, in the centre of Odense. The investigations, which have been by far the largest in the museum’s history, have provided an extensive amount of data and new knowledge about the early city.

In November 2017, CENTRUM, in collaboration with the Center for Medieval Studies at the University of Southern Denmark, held a large seminar on Canute the Holy and his contemporaries. An English language publication of the contributions was released in December 2019 and can be downloaded here. At the same time, a number of articles with other, specific themes have been published, and more will be added in the following years. It is possible to follow these works on this page.

The title of the project evinces a connection to Denmark’s last Viking king, King Canute IV, who was killed on the 10th July 1086 in the Church of St. Alban’s Priory, Odense. Canute became Denmark’s first saint in 1101, and thereafter was referred to as Canute the Holy. After his death, Canute the Holy greatly influenced the development of Odense when the shrine containing his earthly remains became an important destination for pilgrims. In the following years the city grew substantially, not least the clerical institutions which flourished in the city. The murder of Canute marks, in many ways, the real end of the Viking Age, he was the last king to try to recreate the Danish-English empire of Canute the Great, his great uncle who died in 1035.

The publicization of the projects within the framework of Canute’s Odense – City of the Vikings has, to date, resulted in a large special exhibition from May 2017 to March 2018 and an accompanying book which, in addition to a catalogue of the exhibited objects, offered a number of popular science articles which comprehensively showcased the new findings. Both the exhibition and the publication were entitled Canute’s Odense – City of the Vikings. In connection with the exhibition, the book, Canute – king, saint, myth, was also published. The museum continues to give regular guided city walks and lectures about early Odense. In the future, it is the museum’s hope that the publicization of the many significant sites from Odense’s Viking Age and the Middle Ages will be communicated within the city’s urban space.

Two books have been released in connection with the special exhibition. To see more, please click on the images below.