The Jelling Stones are visual records of the transitional period between Norse paganism and the process of Christianization in Denmark.
Examine the function and symbolism of the Runic Stones in Jelling
The Jelling Stones are strongly identified with the creation of Denmark as a nation-state, and both feature one of the earliest records of the name "Danmark."
The larger stone, known as Harald's stone, is often cited as Denmark's baptismal certificate (dåbsattest), containing a depiction of Christ and an inscription celebrating the conversion of the Danes to Christianity.
The runic inscriptions on the Jelling stones are the best-known in Denmark.
Originally the stones were brightly painted in polychromaticpalettes. The tendency to paint runestones appears throughout Scandinavia.
The styles in which humans, animals, and abstract interlace designs appear on Harald's Stone bear striking similarity with popular styles in illuminated manuscripts and decorative arts in the British Isles. Contact between the cultures resulted in these parallels.
Massive carved runestones from the 10th century found at the town of Jelling in Denmark.
The Jelling Stones are massive carved runestones from the 10th century, named for the town of Jelling in Denmark. Prior to the 10th century, stone carving was extremely rare or non-existent in most parts of Scandanavia. Subsequently, and likely influenced by the spread of Christianity, the use of carved stone for permanent memorials became prevalent.
The older of the two Jelling Stones is attributed to King Gorm the Old, thought to have been raised in memory of his wife Thyra. King Gorm's son Harald Bluetooth raised the larger of the two stones in memory of his parents, in celebration of his conquest of Denmark and Norway, and to document his conversion of the Danes to Christianity. Art historians consider the runic inscriptions on the Jelling stones the best-known in Denmark.
Scholars have long considered the Jelling Stones visual records of the transitional period between the indigenousNorsepaganism and the victory of Christianization in Denmark. The larger stone, known as Harald's stone, is often cited as Denmark's baptismal certificate (dåbsattest), containing a depiction of Christ and an inscription celebrating the conversion of the Danes to Christianity. The Jelling Stones are also strongly identified with the creation of Denmark as a nation-state, and both stones offer the earliest examples of the name Danmark (in the form of tanmaurk on the large ston, and tanmarkar on the small stone).
The runestone of Gorm, the older and smaller of the Jelling Stones, has an inscription that reads: "King Gormr made this monument in memory of Thyrvé, his wife, Denmark's adornment." The larger runestone of Harald Bluetooth is engraved on one side with an inscription that reads: "King Harald ordered this monument made in memory of Gormr, his father, and in memory of Thyrvé, his mother. That Harald who won for himself all of Denmark and Norway and made the Danes Christian." Harald's stone has a figure of Jesus Christ on one side and on another side a serpent wrapped around a lion. The depiction of Christ standing in the shape of a cross and entangled in what appear to be branches is of note. One scholar suggested that this imagery was used to indicate that Christ had replaced the Norse pagan god Odin, who in one myth hung for nine nights in the tree Yggdrasill.
Remnants of red pigment show that the Jelling Stones were once brightly painted. This practice was apparently widespread across Scandinavia, with runestones at locations such as Strängnäs Cathedral (Sweden) and Oppland (Norway) bearing similar hues. Replicas made from plaster casts in the twentieth century recreate the stones' polychromatic appearances.
The reliefs on Harald's Stone bear a striking resemblance to the styles of humans, animals, and abstract patterns that appear in illuminated manuscripts and on decorative arts in the British Isles of the Early Middle Ages. This common thread is a result of contact between the cultures through migration and invasion.