Extraordinary find: Denmarks oldest crucifix

17. March 2016 | Vikingemuseet Ladby

Danmarks ældste kristusfigur

The 1100 year old "Christ from Aunslev" will be exhibited at Vikingemuseet Ladby through easter 2016.

On Friday March 11th something very special appeared from the ground in a field near Aunslev at Eastern Funen. Dennis Fabricius Holm was out searching with his metal detector and made an exceptional find. Immediately he contacted the archaeologist at Østfyns Museer, Malene Beck.

Dennis had found a small gold pendant, 4,1 cm in height, in the shape of a man with outstretched arms – the image of Christ. The figure is made of fine articulated goldthreads and small filigree pellets and weighs around 13,2 grams. The reverse side is smooth. At the top a small eye for the chain is mounted. The cross looks a lot like the gilded silver cross found in 1879 in Birka near Stockholm in Sweden, in a female grave from the Viking Age. (grave 660).

The Aunslev cross is the first Danish specimen in full figure. Earlier there has been found fragments from similar crosses in Denmark: in the newly found silver hoard at Omø and in a Viking Age wagonbody burial at Ketting on the island Als, where all the fragments are of silver. The fragment of a hand from the Omø hoard , dated to the late 10th century, looks a little different. It lacks the thumb and has ornaments on the reverse side. The silver crosses from Ketting and Birka are both found in what is believed to be female graves, dated to the first half of the 10th century. So far that makes the Aunslev cross the only one found in a “bare field”. It’s pure luck, that the little jewelry has survived the last 1100 years in the earth. It was probably worn by a Viking woman, but it cannot yet be decided, whether the cross was to show, that she was a Christian Viking or was just a part of a pagan Viking’s bling-bling. For the time being, the Aunslev cross is dated to the first half of the 10th century, which makes it one of the oldest Christian crosses from Denmark and even older than Harald Bluetooth’s runic stone in Jelling.

Today the Aunslev Church lies solitary west of the village Aunslev. In the fields around the church, where the cross is found, there has been found several fine objects. Together the finds suggest, that the church has not always been lying alone. Once there was probably a Viking settlement here, which might have formed the basis of an early church. There has also been a runic stone at the site. According to the narrative, the stone was found just south of the church in 1623. In 1652 it was brought to Copenhagen, where it was destroyed in the big fire in Copenhagen in 1728. The inscription reads: “…stands this stone. Ro…placed…og Roulv made…Stone belongs to the group of “Roulv stones”.”

The Aunslev Cross will be on exhibition at Vikingemuseet Ladby from Friday March 18th and during the Easter holiday and will then be sent to preservation. In the summer it will be part of an exhibition in the museum, which shows some of the exiting Viking Age finds, found with metal detector, from Eastern Funen.

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