Fourth in a series of articles on the Summer 2001 visit to Denmark by the Friends of Denmark, hosted by the West Indian Society there.
The Danish West Indian Society has become famous for its bus tours. Four years ago, Virgin island visitors were treated to a week on the road visiting Jutland, Flemsburg in Germany (at one time belonging to Denmark and its chief port for goods from the West Indies), and the island of Fynn. This year, the hosts sponsored two major trips: to Svanholm, and to Roskilde and Scania.
A modern-day commune
Svanholm Community is a Danish commune, or collective, about 36 miles west of Copenhagen. In 1978, a group of some 85 Danes purchased a major estate including 625 acres of farmland, 490 acres of woodland, several major residences including a grand manor house, and parklands with meadows and marshes. Their intent was to establish an integrated community based on an agricultural lifestyle with equally shared work, income and decision making. And that they have done.
The community practices organic farming, growing grain for human and animal consumption, vegetables and fruits. The carrots, potatoes and onions are sold throughout Denmark. There also is a farm store selling a comprehensive variety of organic produce.
While many members work the land, and while the infrastructure necessary to sustain any community is in place, the group admits it cannot be self sufficient on agricultural production alone. To supplement their economy, they purchase organic foods in bulk on the international market, repackage them into more marketable units, and distribute them to stores with a demand for organic products. They also manufacture timber products such as pallets and shipping boxes and raise various animals. In addition, almost a third of the community residents works outside, contributing their income to the collective pool.
When we arrived at Svanholm, we were given a general orientation to the community lifestyle and then were taken on a tour of the property by one of the originators of the commune. We learned that while machinery can till the soil within inches of the plants, the space next to and between the plants must be weeded by hand. Since there are not enough community members for this demanding chore, they hire local students during key periods of the growing season.
Since they do not spray pesticides, their crops periodically come under attack. While the crops usually receive adequate water from the rain, there is a pesky moth/worm which can be defeated by timely application of sprinkled water. If this pest is found among any crops, the community rallies to set up a mobile irrigation system and water the affected area.
Another major method of pest control the commune employs also serves as soil management: crop rotation. Some crops are grown in a specific area only once every four or seven years. The plantings are interspersed with others to defeat crop-specific pests and rebuild the soil.
The community obtains additional labor from volunteers who exchange 30 hours per week of labor for room and board. On our tour we saw an international student group working to restore the original wood window frames in the landmark manor house.
The farm tour ended in the manor house Mirror Room. In this large common room are two large mirrors on opposite walls. When commune members want to try something that involves the community in any way, they bring it to a weekly meeting of members in the Mirror Room. Here the idea is discussed and negotiated until it is acceptable to all in attendance or dropped by the proponent. Members experiencing problems bring them to the meeting, or others do so, and are counseled. If a problem is not resolved over time, the member voluntarily leaves the community, or is asked to leave.
The cathedral of monarchs
Following an excellent organic lunch in the community kitchen, we moved on to the city of Roskilde and the cathedral that has been the place of entombment of Danish monarchs since 1559.
Earlier royals were buried throughout the kingdom or abroad. Knud the Great and his son Hardeknud, two Viking kings, were buried in London's Westminster Cathedral. Another king, Erik Ejegod, died on Cyprus during a holy pilgrimage to Jerusalem and was buried there. The first king to be buried in the Roskilde area was Harald Bluetooth, in 987.
The cathedral was begun as a brick Romanesque church in 1170. In 1191, a new bishop changed the design to Gothic. The basic building was completed in 1280; however, each century has seen numerous extensions in various styles. Prior to the Reformation, the cathedral was Roman Catholic; afterward, it became Protestant, and interior changes became necessary.
The altar is huge, with 12 gold bas-relief panels and nine gold panels filled with gold figures. It is an artistic wonder that comes with a great story. It seems the Danish authorities who were responsible for collecting taxes for passage through Danish waters chose not to take actual inventory of each ship's goods. Instead, they relied upon the ship's captain to give them a good approximation of the value of the cargo upon which tax had to be paid. To keep everyone honest, there was the rule that should the tax man find the cargo was worth more than declared, it could be confiscated in return for payment of the declared value.
One day, the captain of a ship passing through set the value of his cargo at a moderate amount. The tax collector decided to check things out and found the gold altar panels, which he promptly confiscated. They were dispatched to the cathedral, where the altar has been in use ever since.
The sarcophagus of King Christian V and that of his queen, Charlotte Amalie, are found in the sanctuary of the cathedral along with those of Harald Bluetooth, Bishop Welhelm (the founder of the cathedral), and King Frederick IV and Queen Louise.
Most of the sarcophagi are huge white marble affairs with sculptures atop the lids of the entombed monarchs lying in state with full royal regalia. Those for the remains of Christian V, Charlotte Amalie and the Trolle family in the North Tower chapel with Queen Annie Sophia all have a grotesque carved skull nestled on crossed bones at the foot.
Next: Side trips to Gilleleje and southern Sweden


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