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Jelling stones, Denmark

The Jelling stones are massive carved runestones from the 10th century, found at the town of Jelling in Denmark. The older of the two Jelling stones was raised by King Gorm the Old in memory of his wife Thyra. The larger of the two stones was raised by King Gorm’s son, Harald Bluetooth in memory of his parents, celebrating his conquest of Denmark and Norway, and his conversion of the Danes to Christianity. The runicinscriptions on these stones are considered the most well known in Denmark.

The Jelling stones stand in the churchyard of Jelling church between two large mounds. The stones represent the transitional period between the indigenous Norse paganism and the process of Christianization in Denmark. They are strongly identified with the creation of Denmark as a nation state. After having been exposed to all kinds of weather for a thousand years cracks are beginning to show. On the 15th of November 2008 experts from UNESCO examined the stones to determine their condition. Experts have requested the stones be moved to an indoor exhibition hall, or in some other way protected in situ, to prevent further damage from the weather. Heritage Agency of Denmark decided to keep the stones in their current location and selected a protective design from 157 projects submitted through a competition.

The winner of the competition was Nobel Architects. The design features rectangular glass casings strengthened by two solid bronze sides mounted on a supporting steel skeleton. The bronze patina will give off a rusty, greenish colour, highlighting the runestones’ gray and reddish tones and emphasising their monumental character and significance. The glass will be coated with an anti-reflective material that gives the exhibit a greenish hue. A climate system will also keep the inside of the structures at a fixed temperature and humidity. Transoms and other mounting fixtures on the casings will not be visible to visitors. Although Nobel Architects’ design has won the competition, the Jelling church council must now decide whether the design will be implemented in its existing form or if it should be modified. No date has been given as to when the structures will eventually be completed.

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