The Sand Covered Church of Skagen

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About 2 km southwest of the town center of Skagen, in Denmark, is a brick church half buried in sand. Known as Old Skagen Church or The Buried Church (Den Tilsandede Kirke in Danish), this 14th-century church dedicated to Saint Lawrence of Rome was an enormous structure with long vaulted nave, exterior buttresses, and a tower with crow-stepped gable. The building was 45 meters long and the tower was 22 meters tall. During the last half of the 18th century the church was partially buried by sand from nearby dunes. For years, the congregation struggled to keep the church free of sand, having to dig out the entrance each time a service was to be held. They gave up in 1795 and the church was demolished, leaving the tower as the only part of the original structure still standing. Approximately 18 meters of the tower is visible above the sand today.


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Sand began drifting in from Råbjerg Mile, a moving sand dune between Skagen and Frederikshavn, around the beginning of the 17th century. This sanding-over of land occurred in many coastal areas around the North Sea between 1400 and 1800, affecting Scotland, Denmark, and Holland, and leading to desertification of many towns and villages. The sand reached the church by the end of the 18th century. Between 1775 and 1795, the church door had to be dug free for the congregation to be able to attend the service. Finally, the church goers had enough and decided to abandon the church for ever. The furnishings and interior decorations and anything of value were removed, and the body of the church was demolished.

Although no longer functional, it is one of the best-known Danish churches today. Its tower has attracted attention from tourist all over Denmark, and inspired writers such as Hans Christian Andersen to pen the story "En Historie fra Klitterne" (translated: “A Story from the Sand Dunes”).


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Also see: Rubjerg Knude: The Lighthouse Buried in Sand

Sources: Wikipedia / Frommers

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