Cultural Paths in Denmark

Scattered across the landscape are traces from the fascinating history of Central Jutland. Some are still there to be seen, while others are hidden underground.

The traces are everywhere, from the open West Jutland landscapes and the rough coastline, across Central Jutland's wooded Søhøjland ’Lake District’ to the fjords, rolling hills, and cliffs on the nose of Djursland. At all times and in all places man has lived and left his mark.

'Gods and Myths' guides you to some of these unique locations in the local landscape which has mystery-enshrouded and extraordinary stories to tell. Take a cultural trip across the landscape. Explore history at the locations where it took place; feel the power of mighty runic stones, large dolmens and passage graves; see hidden church treasures; or learn the meaning of the traces of war and worship in the peat bogs of the Iron Age.

Museum Østjylland

One museum, three provincial towns, and 15,000 years of history

All providing visitors with knowledge, a great experience, and food for thought. Those are the guiding principles for Museum Østjylland. At the museum branches in Randers, Ebeltoft and Grenaa you can experience some of Central Jutland's most spectacular cultural-historical exhibitions filled with information about beliefs, superstitions, and mystery. See the runic stones of the Viking Age in Randers, step into the Stone Age passage grave in the exhibitions in Grenaa, or let yourself be astonished and give in to the magical atmosphere of the unique Siamese Collection in Ebeltoft. Museum Østjylland also includes the Old Town Hall in Ebeltoft, the Håndværksmuseet crafts museum in Randers, and the old Farvergården dye works in Ebeltoft.

Tour description

1. Mejlbystenen. The magical message of the runic stone

The Mejlbystenen runic stone at Museum Østjylland in Randers tells the astounding story of Åne who, one thousand years ago, erected this monument for his son Eskil who died in the Øresund together with Thore. Four short lines of runic inscription cut into the stone describing a drama, which is recounted by the stone itself by means of digital effects. In addition to the Mejlbystenen with it's amazing story, there are four more runic stones at Museum Østjylland in Randers. On these stones you can meet even more of the Danish Viking forefathers who lived here more than 1,000 years ago: Spurv, Toke, Thorstein, Inge, Askatle, and Spege.

2. Ålum Church. Four runic stones in one go

In the area between Randers and Viborg you can find the largest concentration of runic stones in Denmark. The runic stones were the magical monuments of the Viking Age, which were usually erected on sites in the landscape where many people passed by and would see them. Following the Viking Age and the conversion to Christianity many of the stones were used as materials for the building of churches. Therefore many of them are today found in or by churches in Denmark. In Ålum Church near Randers there are as many as four runic stones. One erected by a woman, Thyra, for her nephew whom she loved more than her own son.

3. Tustrup. Worship and burial in the Stone Age

Throughout the Danish landscape there are still the remains of several thousand stone cists from the Neolithic Age. But there is nowhere else in Denmark where you can find a complex like the one, set in a wonderful natural setting by Tustrup. The preserved complex consists of two smaller dolmens and one passage grave, which is among the biggest in Jutland, and which can be accessed by the public. As a remarkable feature the stone cists are placed in a semicircle around a place of worship, where rituals have been performed at the funerals taking place in the passage grave and dolmens 5,200 years ago.

4. The Stenvad dolme. An icon on Danish banknotes

Originally there were probably some 40,000 large stone cists in Denmark, all erected from 3500 to 3100 BC. Today only the remains of some 2,400 are still visible. Many Danes will regard the dolmen at Stenvad as the classic dolmen from the Neolithic Age, especially since it was depicted on the back of the Danish 50-krone banknote up until 1970. Today the area around the dolmen has been cleared so you can see the stones which made up the tomb. But it didn't always look like that. Originally the dolmen consisted of two tombs in a mound surrounded by stones.

5. Poskær Stenhus. Denmark's largest dolmen has a twin

Poskær Stenhus, dating from around 3300 BC, is Denmark's largest dolmen and is one of the most famous and beautiful Neolithic Age dolmens. The dolmen is situated magnificently between the towns of Agri and Knebel on Mols. The large capstone above the tomb, weighing an estimated 15 tonnes, is one half of a stone split by Stone Age peasants. The other half, weighing 19 tonnes, served as a capstone on the Grovlegårddyssen dolmen two kilometers from Poskær. In the area there are another 24 protected dolmens

6. Råsted Church. 900-year old wall paintings

Råsted Church north of Randers is one of Denmark's most comprehensively adorned with frescos from the first half of the 12th century. The frescos had been painted-over since the Middle Ages and were uncovered in the 1930s. The motifs of the frescos are scenes from the New Testament, which were probably inspired by plays performed in the church at the festivals throughout the year. Today the 900-year old wall paintings may be difficult to understand, but they remain a beautiful sight.

7. Råby Church. A centaur, a mermaid, and other imaginary creatures

Råby Church is a treasure-trove of strange frescos from the early 16th century. On the church vaults all sorts of imaginary creatures are depicted, including the mermaid, the cyclops, and the man with a dog's head. A male creature with a single large foot, using it as a parasol, was regarded as far too harsh a sight when the frescos were uncovered in the beginning of the 20th century. The creature and his erected penis, together with most of the other imaginary creatures, were whitewashed over once again. It wasn't until 1976 when they were uncovered once again to be seen today. The frescos in Råby were painted by the same workshop as the frescos in Dalbyover Church in the Randers area.

8. Dalbyneder Church. An account of a astonishing journey

In Dalbyneder Church you can go on a marvellous trip in the world of medieval times; a world so big, yet with so little knowledge of the world at large. Hardly anyone knew what it was like outside their local area. Thus you were free to offer your own interpretation of who lived in, for example, Egypt, India, or Asia. The man with a buck's horns, the man with a dog's head, the monopod, the centaur, and the other imaginary creatures in the frescos in Dalbyneder Church clearly originate from Mandeville's imaginative account of a journey towards the east at the end of the 14th century. At the end of the 15th century this was published as an illustrated edition, which could well have inspired the frescos in the churches in Dalbyneder and Råby.

9. Thorsø Høje. Bronze age mounds on a string

Thorsø Høje a short distance to the north-west of Grenaa is steeped in bronze age mystery. Nine mounds where burials took place during 1700–1200 BC are located on a highly distinctive hill top with a wide view over the Kattegat. Eight of the mounds are round while the ninth is a long barrow. Due to its shape is has been called the Melsækken (Flour Sack). The mounds, which are part of an original group of at least 25–30 mounds, give a clear indication of how close the grave mounds were and how prominently they must have featured in the landscape of the Bronze Age. Finds from excavations in some of the lost grave mounds are in the collection of Museum Østjylland.

10. Stabelhøje. Bronze Age grave mounds with wonderful views

Stabelhøje near Agri in the Mols Bjerge National Park are some of the most magnificent grave mounds from the late Bronze Age (1800–1000 BC). They are situated on top of twin hills, more than 130 metres up, and there are also some of the best views in Denmark from the grave mounds. The Bay of Aarhus, the Bay of Ebeltoft, and the rolling hills of Mols Bjerge unfold before your eyes when you stand at the top. The mounds have never been examined archaeologically, but they are presumed to contain a number of graves originating from over a long period of time.