King and Church. Justice and Democracy. These ideas are crucial to Danish history and the development of the modern state of Denmark. All of them are closely tied to Viborg, where chapter upon chapter of Danish history has taken place – right at the Heart of the Kingdom. It was here on the hill overlooking the lakes, at the crossroads of the two major thoroughfares running north to south and east to west, that the vikings founded both an assembly—a thing—and a place of worship. The thing soon became the central assembly for all of Jutland and the island of Funen—a landsting—and the place of worship developed into a cathedral and the stronghold of Catholicism in Jutland.
All the aspiring and potential kings of the middle ages travelled to Viborg in order to be elected and paid homage as the new king of Denmark at the Thing in Viborg. From Harthacnut, son of Cnut the Great, in the earliest middle ages until the establishment of absolutism in 1660. Viborg became both the place of coronation and of burial for King Erik Klipping, famously murdered in 1286 in a coup at Finderup Lade just south of Viborg. The Thing at Viborg also produced the Code of Jutland, the first civil code of the Danish realm (famously opening with the declaration that ’with law shall the country be built’, now inscribed above the entrance of the Copenhagen Court House), and it was it was here that the Estates General laid the foundation for democracy in Denmark.
The center of power for the Catholic church in Jutland was built around Viborg Cathedral between the years 1060 and 1536, with a total of six cloisters and twelve churches in the area. It was in this strongly Catholic Viborg that the Lutheran reformation in Denmark began as the monk Hans Tausen arrived in the city, resulting in widespread revolt, the destruction of many of the city’s churches in 1529, and, in 1536, the brutal execution of the infamous leader of the peasant rebellion, Skipper Clement.
As such, Viborg has hosted more than a thousand years of history, and the many dramatic events and important institutions have given the city a distinct flavour which still allows Viborg to exert influence as a significant city of legal and administrative affairs.