Absalon: Wikis

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Statue of Absalon in Copenhagen
Bishop Absalon topples the god Svantevit at Arkona in 1169

Absalon (c. 1128 – 21 March 1201) was a Danish archbishop and statesman. He was the son of Asser Rig of Fjenneslev (Zealand), at whose castle he and his brother Esbjørn (Esbern) were brought up along with the young prince Valdemar, afterwards King Valdemar I.

Contents

Early life

After giving Absalon the rudiments of a sound education at home, which included not only book-lore but every manly and martial exercise, his family sent him to the schools of Paris. Absalon first appears in Saxo's Gesta Danorum as a fellow-guest at Roskilde, at the banquet given in 1157 by King Sweyn to his rivals Canute and Valdemar. Both Absalon and Valdemar narrowly escaped assassination at the hands of their treacherous host on this occasion, but at length escaped to Jutland, whither Sweyn followed them, but was defeated and slain at the battle of Grathe Heath.

Absalon's gravestone in Sorø Abbey church

Life as bishop

The same year (1158) which saw Valdemar ascend the Danish throne saw Absalon elected bishop of Roskilde. Henceforth Absalon was the chief counsellor of Valdemar, and the promoter of that imperial policy which, for three generations, was to give Denmark the dominion of the Baltic. Briefly stated, it was Absalon's intention to clear the northern sea of the Wendish pirates, who inhabited that portion of the Baltic littoral which was later called Pomerania, and who ravaged the Danish coasts to the point where at the accession of Valdemar one-third of the realm of Denmark lay wasted and depopulated.

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Military expeditions

The first expedition against the Wends, conducted by Absalon in person, set out in 1160, but it was not till 1168 that the chief Wendish fortress, at Arkona in Rügen, containing the sanctuary of their god Svantovit, was surrendered, the Wends agreeing to accept Danish suzerainty and the Christian religion at the same time. From Arkona Absalon proceeded by sea to Charenza, in the midst of Rügen, the political capital of the Wends and an all but impregnable stronghold. But the unexpected fall of Arkona had terrified the garrison, which surrendered unconditionally at the first appearance of the Danish ships. Absalon, with only Sweyn, bishop of Aarhus, and twelve "housecarls" thereupon disembarked, passed between a double row of Wendish warriors, 6000 strong, along the narrow path winding among the morasses, to the gates of the fortress, and, proceeding to the temple of the seven-headed god Rugievit, caused the idol to be hewn down, dragged forth and burnt. The whole population of Garz was then baptized, and Absalon laid the foundations of twelve churches in the isle of Rügen. The destruction of this chief sally-port of the Wendish pirates enabled Absalon considerably to reduce the Danish fleet. But he continued to keep a watchful eye over the Baltic, and in 1170 destroyed another pirate stronghold, farther eastward, at Dievenow on the isle of Wolin.

Absalon's last military exploit was the annihilation, off Strela (Stralsund), at Whitsun 1184, of a Pomeranian fleet that had attacked Denmark's vassal, Jaromir of Rügen. He was now but fifty-seven, but his strenuous life had aged him, and he was content to resign the command of fleets and armies to younger men, like Duke Valdemar, afterwards King Valdemar II, and to confine himself to the administration of the empire which his genius had created.

The aim of his policy was to free Denmark from entanglements with the Holy Roman Empire. It was contrary to his advice and warnings that Valdemar I rendered fealty to the emperor Frederick Barbarossa at Dole in 1162; and when, on the accession of Canute VI in 1182, an imperial ambassador arrived at Roskilde to receive the homage of the new king, Absalon resolutely withstood him.

As the archpastor of Denmark Absalon also rendered his country inestimable services, building churches and monasteries, supporting international religious orders like the Cistercians and Augustinians, founding schools and doing his utmost to promote civilization and enlightenment. It was he who held the first Danish Synod at Lund in 1167 and he who supported the writing of Gesta Danorum by Saxo Grammaticus. In 1178 he became archbishop of Lund, but very unwillingly, only the threat of excommunication from the holy see finally inducing him to accept the pallium.

Death and legacy

Absalon died in 1201 at the family monastery of Sorø, which he himself had richly embellished and endowed.

Absalon remains one of the most striking and picturesque figures of the Middle Ages, and was equally great as churchman, statesman and warrior. That he enjoyed warfare there can be no doubt; and his splendid physique and early training had well fitted him for martial exercises. He was the best rider in the army and the best swimmer in the fleet. Yet he was not like the ordinary fighting bishops of the Middle Ages, whose sole concession to their sacred calling was to avoid the shedding of blood by using a mace in battle instead of a sword. Absalon never neglected his ecclesiastical duties, and even his wars were of the nature of crusades.

Absalon's name was adopted for a class of Royal Danish Navy vessels, and the lead vessel of the class, in the 2000s. HDMS Absalon (L16) [1] and Esbern Snare (L17) were launched and commissioned by Denmark in 2004 and 2005.[2]. In December, 2008, HDMS Absalon was involved in the rescue of putative Somali pirates 90 miles off Yemen in the Gulf of Aden. The craft from Somalia was reported to hold rocket-propelled grenades and AK-47 assault rifles, and to have been adrift for several days. Also per the report, the Absalon took the sailors and weapons aboard, sunk the craft, and turned the sailors over to the Yemen coast guard. The Absalon, according to The New York Times report, "was deployed in the Gulf of Aden [in] September ['08] as part of an international effort to curb piracy," [3] part of Combined Task Force 150.

Sources

  • Saxo, Gesta Danorum, ed. Holder (Strassburg, 1886), books xvi.
  • Steenstrup, Danmarks Riges Historie. Oldtiden og den ældre Middelalder, pp. 570-735 (Copenhagen, 1897-1905).
  • Absalon's Testamentum, in Migne, Patrologia Latina 209,18.

References

  1. ^ [1] pictured, naval-technology.com
  2. ^ Absalon Class Combat / Flexible Support Ship, Denmark naval-technology.com
  3. ^ Danish Navy Rescues Suspected Pirates by Alan Cowell, The New York Times

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

ABSALON (c. 1128-1201), Danish archbishop and statesman, was born about 1128, the son of Asser Rig of Fjenneslev, at whose castle he and his brother Esbjorn were brought up along with the young prince Valdemar, afterwards Valdemar I. The Rigs were as pious and enlightened as they were rich. They founded the monastery of Sord as a civilizing centre, and after giving Absalon the rudiments of a sound education at home, which included not only book-lore but every manly and martial exercise, they sent him to the university of Paris. Absalon first appears in Saxo's Chronicle as a fellow-guest at Roskilde, at the banquet given, in 1157, by King Sweyn to his rivals Canute and Valdemar. Both Absalon and Valdemar narrowly escaped assassination at the hands of their treacherous host on this occasion, but at length escaped to Jutland, whither Sweyn followed them, but was defeated and slain at the battle of Grathe Heath. The same year (1158) which saw Valdemar ascend the Danish throne saw Absalon elected bishop of Roskilde. Henceforth Absalon was the chief counsellor of Valdemar, and the promoter of that imperial policy which, for three generations, was to give Denmark the dominion of the Baltic. Briefly, it was Absalon's intention to clear the northern sea of the Wendish pirates, who inhabited that portion of the Baltic littoral which we now call Pomerania, and ravaged the Danish coasts so unmercifully that at the accession of Valdemar one-third of the realm of Denmark lay wasted and depopulated. The very existence of Denmark demanded the suppression and conversion of these stiff-necked pagan freebooters, and to this double task Absalon devoted the best part of his life. The first expedition against the Wends, conducted by Absalon in person, set out in 1160, but it was not I. 3 a till 1168 that the chief Wendish fortress, at Arkona in Rugen, containing the sanctuary of their god Svantevit, was surrendered, the Wends agreeing to accept Danish suzerainty and the Christian religion at the same time. From Arkona Absalon proceeded by sea to Garz, in south Rugen, the political capital of the Wends, and an all but impregnable stronghold. But the unexpected fall of Arkona had terrified the garrison, which surrendered unconditionally at the first appearance of the Danish ships. Absalon, with only Sweyn, bishop of Aarhus, and twelve "housecads," thereupon disembarked, passed between a double row of Wendish warriors, 6000 strong, along the narrow path winding among the morasses, to the gates of the fortress, and, proceeding to the temple of the seven-headed god Rtigievit, caused the idol to be hewn down, dragged forth and burnt. The whole population of Garz was then baptized, and Absalon laid the foundations of twelve churches in the isle of Rugen. The destruction of this chief sally-port of the Wendish pirates enabled Absalon considerably to reduce the Danish fleet. But he continued to keep a watchful eye over the Baltic, and in 1170 destroyed another pirate stronghold, farther eastward, at Dievenow on the isle of Wollin. Absalon's last military exploit was the annihilation, off Strela (Stralsund), on Whit-Sunday 1184, of a Pomeranian fleet which had attacked Denmark's vassal, Jaromir of Rugen. He was now but fifty-seven, but his strenuous life had aged him, and he was content to resign the command of fleets and armies to younger men, like Duke Valdemar, afterwards Valdemar and to confine himself to the administration of the empire which his genius had created. In this sphere Absalon proved himself equally great. The aim of his policy was to free Denmark from the German yoke. It was contrary to his advice and warnings that Valdemar I. rendered fealty to the emperor Frederick Barbarossa at Dole in 1162; and when, on the accession of Canute V. in 1182, an imperial ambassador arrived at Roskilde to receive the homage of the new king, Absalon resolutely withstood him. "Return to the emperor," cried he, "and tell him that the king of Denmark will in no wise show him obedience or do him homage." As the archpastor of Denmark Absalon also rendered his country inestimable services, building churches and monasteries, introducing the religious orders, founding schools and doing his utmost to promote civilization and enlightenment. It was he who held the first Danish Synod at Lund in 1167. In 1178 he became archbishop of Lund, but very unwillingly, only the threat of excommunication from the holy see finally inducing him to accept the pallium. Absalon died on the 21st of March 1201, at the family monastery of Sor g, which he himself had richly embellished and endowed.

Absalon remains one of the most striking and picturesque figures of the Middle Ages, and was equally great as churchman, statesman and warrior. That he enjoyed warfare there can be no doubt; and his splendid physique and early training had well fitted him for martial exercises. He was the best rider in the army and the best swimmer in the fleet. Yet he was not like the ordinary fighting bishops of the Middle Ages, whose sole concession to their sacred calling was to avoid the "shedding of blood" by using a mace in battle instead of a sword. Absalon never neglected his ecclesiastical duties, and even his wars were of the nature of crusades. Moreover, all his martial energy notwithstanding, his personality must have been singularly winning; for it is said of him that he left behind not a single enemy, all his opponents having long since been converted by him into friends.

See Saxo, Gesta Danorum, ed. Holder (Strassburg, 1886), books x.- xvi.; Steinstrup, Danmark's Riges Historie. Oldtiden og den celdre Middelalder, pp. 570-735 (Copenhagen, 1897-1905). (R. N. B.)


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Wiktionary

Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

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Danish

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Proper noun

Absalon

  1. A male given name, a variant of biblical Absalom best known for the bishop Absalon Hvide. Both names are very rare.

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French

Proper noun

Absalon

  1. The biblical character Absalom.

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