Carmelite Priory, Helsingør - History - Carmelites

Carmelites

The Priory of Our Lady was established in 1430 for a group of Carmelite friars from Landskrona. It was one of three religious houses founded in Helsingør by King Erik VII as it grew from a small fishing village to a trading port on the Kattegat, the strait which separates Zealand from Skåne, an important fishing ground and busy shipping corridor between the North Sea and the Baltic. Erik VII, the heir of Margaret I, needed funds and his new toll on shipping was a source of steady income. He wanted to impress outsiders and set about purposefully to develop Helsingør as a gateway city. One of the things he did was to establish in the town not only the priory for the Carmelites but also a Franciscan friary and a Dominican priory.

The Carmelites were a mendicant order (tiggermunk) which means that at least in the beginning they depended on the generosity of local residents for their sustenance. They were sometimes called the "little white friars". King Erik invited them into Denmark and established the priory of Our Lady in Helsingør to ensure that they remained. As time passed the priory received many properties scattered all over Zealand which decreased their dependence on others. The priory in Helsingør eventually became the headquarters for the Carmelites in Scandinavia.

Its property was a gift from King Erik, and included several farms for its maintenance. The buildings were of red brick, the most common building material of the day in the region. The three main buildings were built around a central garden and cloister, with the church of St. Mary forming the fourth side to the south. The church was built as a three-aisled basilica, but the central nave was built significantly higher than the others in the Gothic style.

The oldest buildings were destroyed by a fire in 1450, resulting in its current appearance which dates to 1500, when the building of the church was completed. In 1516 a hospital was created here for foreign sailors.

The most influential Carmelite from the priory in Helsingør was Poul Helgesen, who was a university lecturer and student of Erasmus. He was an early proponent of Lutheran reforms in Denmark, but later became disenchanted with Lutheranism as well, earning him the hatred of both religious communities. He wrote a chronicle of his turbulent time, but it was never published. A manuscript was discovered inside the walls of Skibby church, later published under the title Skibby Chronicle.

Read more about this topic:  Carmelite Priory, Helsingør, History

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