Kungen är död, leve helgonkungen! Till tolkningen av en romansk bildfris

  • Torkel Eriksson † Director emer. Helsingborg Museum, Sweden


Title: The King is dead, long live the Holy King! Interpretation of a romanesque figure frieze.
The subject of this article is the figure frieze on the Romanesque font in Östra Hoby Church in Scania, Sweden, executed in the 1160s by a stone mason who had links with Lund Cathedral. The frieze has long been an art historical enigma, but it clearly depicts the legend of a saint. It consists of five scenes interpreted here as depicting the story of Canute the Holy, King of Denmark (Knut den helige), killed in Odense 1086 and canonized in 1099. This interpretation is based on the legends concerning King Canute and Danish chronicles from the 12th and 13th centuries. The most detailed version of the legend was written by the English monk Ælnoth about 1122, and the most important profane narrative forms part of the Knytlingasaga, written shortly after 1250. The five reliefs on the font are interpreted as: 1) King David, represented as a Patriarch and Rex Musicae; 2) King Canute sitting with an unknown person at an altarlike table; 3) The deathbed of King Canute in 1086 and his elevation in 1095; 4) Canute’s father-in-law, Count Robert of Flanders, and the two brothers who (according to the Knytlingas​​aga) were sent to Robert in order to negotiate the release of Oluf, Canute’s brother; 5) Queen Edel, Canute’s widow, standing in front of the pope who proclaims the canonization of Canute.
How to Cite
ERIKSSON, Torkel. Kungen är död, leve helgonkungen! Till tolkningen av en romansk bildfris. ICO Iconographisk Post. Nordisk tidskrift för bildtolkning – Nordic Review of Iconography, [S.l.], n. 1, p. 4-32, apr. 2015. ISSN 2323-5586. Available at: <https://ojs.abo.fi/ojs/index.php/ico/article/view/936>. Date accessed: 24 oct. 2021.


Romanesque Art, Romanesque Baptismal Fonts, Scandinavian Mediaeval Art, Canute the Holy (King Canute IV of Denmark), Queen Edel, Ælnoth, Knytlingasaga