Nuns at vikings stronghold
Here, on Nonnebakken, is the site of one of Denmark’s imposing tenth century Viking strongholds.
It was a ring fortification of the same type as found at locations such as Trelleborg near Slagelse and Aggersborg near the Limfjord. The construction was so vast that it was probably built by royal decree. It was also practical, being close to the river, which allowed longboats to be sailed right to the stronghold.
Aerial photograph of Trelleborg, near Slagelse. All ring fortifications from this period share an identical geometry. Photo: Common Creative.
Unfortunately, we know far too little about the Viking stronghold on Nonnebakken, as the area was dug up in 1909 to transform Filosofgangen from path to street. This is also why only few remains have been found in the area, apart from a few silver coins, glass beads, lead weights and iron axes. The slope on which the white Oddfellows’ Hall now stands is the final remains of the rampart system from the Viking era.
Nonnebakken 1909. Workmen digging away the ramparts of the Viking stronghold, with shovels and horse-drawn.
Copperplate engraving of Odense viewed from the south in 1840. To the right of the picture you can see the ramparts on Nonnebakken.
In the schoolyard of Giersing‘s Real School next to Oddfellows’ Hall, there is a cobbled strip which marks the inner and outer base boundaries of the stronghold. Nonnebakken is so named because it was home to a twelfth-century priory for Benedictine nuns. Nonnebakken means “Nuns’ Hill”. The nuns later relocated to Dalum to the South of Odense. Perhaps “Nuns’ Hill” should really have been called “Viking Hill”.
Ring fortifications were mathematically precise in their construction and were built to extremely precise measurements. Within the circular ring ramparts were 4 x 4 long houses that served as dwellings.