Enough of Hygge - 13 - Kalkmalerier and the western outskirts
As well as bronze-age barrows Denmark boasts another historical treasure in its medieval church paintings (Kalkmalerier). Some of the best are mini-Sistine chapels in their coverage and story telling. The idea of this tour is to visit the best examples in the vicinity of Copenhagen (Ballerup, Måløv, Smørum and Vallensbæk). However this is somewhat hampered by the difficulty in gaining access to Ballerup and Smørum churches. However Måløv church is open daily and is nationally important, as well as being a beauty.
Even if you are not interested in churches and medieval paintings this tour is a splendid way to explore the expansive countryside midway between Copenhagen and Roskilde Fjord. The tour visits the first 3 previously mentioned churches and the bronze age burial mound of Kong Svends Høj, then heads south, across rolling landscapes to a reconstructed viking bridge and the Kroppedal museum, past Vallensbæk Church and ending at the S-tog station at Vallensbæk.
Note: The map (above) and photographs can be enlarged by clicking on them (opens in a new browser tab). On the map north is 90° clockwise, i.e. at 03:00 on an old school analogue clock.
We will start at Ballerup Station (S-train C line) on the northern side of the station by the bus terminus. (GPS 55.73007 12.35815).
In front of the station go round the bus terminal to the far side and leave by its northern corner curving round onto Bydammen. Continue on this road, across the traffic lights, and 200m further on the red-brick tower of Ballerup Church appears within its white-walled churchyard. (GPS 55.73245 12.36063).
1 Ballerup Church is only open for general viewing on a Wednesday between 3pm and 5pm, but has some fine examples of kalmalerier, so if it can be fitted in it is a worthwhile objective.
The initial stone church, comprising the nave and choir, was begun around the year 1200, and these can be picked out in the stone walls of the south face. The earliest painting (around 1240) can be seen up on the arch connecting nave and choir with images of Cain and Abel, Cain with his displeasing bunch of grain and the favoured Abel with his choice lamb.
The original flat wooden roof was replaced with a vaulted one around 1400, and shortly after the majority of the kalmalerier were completed. Although biblical figures dominate the scenes a depiction of St George and the Dragon is dazzling. A sense of fun can also be seen in the adjacent painting of St Michael weighing souls with two playful devils trying to pull the scales down.
To continue the tour return to the entrance of Ballerup train station (GPS 55.73007 12.35815). and use the subway, at the right-hand end of the station building, to go under the railway tracks to the south side. Immediately on exiting the subway is a cycle track. Take this, turning right, and continue, parallel to the railway tracks for 400m. At a left hand bend take the turning on the right signposted "Pederstrup" and "Kilderuten" (GPS 55.73230 12.35139).
Ballerup open-air museum:
2 The cycle track passes open fields before coming to a cross-way at the edge of Ballerup museum. The museum is a collection of farm buildings and town houses with exhibitions and events, plus entry is free. Take the narrow track ahead between the buildings and turn right at the end to pass the entrance to the museum (GPS 55.73377 12.33854).
At the road junction, 100m further on, turn right. The road winds past a farm heading back towards the railway tracks. Just before the railway the track veers left which takes you through a tunnel. Take the ramp on the left up onto Lindbjergvej (GPS 55.73852 12.33800). Go straight over the road onto the gravel track heading into the woods. Weave right then left, then turn left at the next junction, onto tarmac, to curve round to a subway under the main road. Emerging from the subway turn left onto the gravel track and where the track splits next to a lily-pond take the right branch (GPS 55.74290 12.34204). This track joins a gravel road (Brandmosevej), turn left going uphill.
The gravel road passes fields and woods before dropping down to a tarmac road (Jonstrupvej). Turn left onto this and continue for 200m to the junction with Fuglehavevej (GPS 55.74877 12.34638). Turn left here to join cycle route 69 on a gravel track which crosses Østerhøj Nature Park. Continue straight ahead at every junction, veering left where it meets buildings at Møllemosen, and continuing to a subway under a road.
This track continues through the park and sports ground to a dramatic reveal of Måløv Church at Kratvej.
3 Måløv Church occupies a knoll in a shallow valley (GPS 55.75174 12.31723). Small but beautifully kept, it was raised around 1150 (nave and choir) and most of the surviving wall paintings date from that period. Notable are the gold-painted stucco features emphasising the haloes and clothing. The painting of the Madonna and Child in the niche shows Byzantine influences.
The tour continues with a left turn onto Kratvej which ascends gently to the junction with Måløv Hovedgade. Turn right and climb higher to the junction with Jungshøjvej. Turn left and proceed to the major junction with Måløv Byvej (GPS 55.75116 12.30861). Do not cross the lights but take the track immediately on your right that spirals down to a subway beneath the road.
Emerging from the subway turn to the right to run parallel to the railway. A set of steps leads up to a road (Måløv Værkstedsby). Continue past the offices to the next crossroads (GPS 55.75165 12.29917).
Kong Svends Høj:
Turn left at the crossroads (Kongebakken) passing over the railway and follow the road round to the right and keep going to the end. Where the road ends take the cycle track on the left that leads up to Kong Svends Høj (GPS 55.74739 12.29014).
4 Kong Svends Høj is crowned with a couple of majestic (oak) trees. The bronze-age mound has never been excavated, so no one knows its exact age, or if a king is actually buried there, let alone if he is called Svend. The view west is commanding, the valleys lead down to Roskilde Fjord.
Leave Kong Svends Høj heading west, immediately to the right of the housing estate. Where this track turns left is a monument (Panoptikon) depicting some of the prehistoric finds from the area. Continue south, keeping the open fields on your right, until you come to a junction with another track heading downhill, to the right (GPS 55.74342 12.29186). Head downhill, crossing the road (Kong Svends Vej), and up the other side to where the track meets another road (Kirkevangen) (GPS 55.73836 12.28782).
Turn right onto this road (kirkevangen) and continue until the red bricked Smørum Church appears on the left (GPS 55.73425 12.27925).
Smørum Church displays an assortment of styles,
from different ages, on its exterior. I have yet to see the interior as
it is only open for services, but I would like to as the descriptions
of the wall paintings are intriguing
a man eats his stomach,
a man pees into a bucket, and more!
When suitably recovered, continue to the end of Kirkevangen and turn left at the junction onto Skebjergvej. After 1km go straight over the traffic lights, then 700m further, where a large playing field appears on the left, there is a pedestrian/cycle crossing (GPS 55.72924 12.30136). Turn right onto the track heading south. A small sign indicates cycle route 69 and a heading towards Ishøj Strand.
This quiet cycle track traverses the golf course, then a forest before diving under the Frederikssund motorway. Emerging on the other side you soon reack the outskirts of Ledøje. The track jinks right then left and crosses a narrow lane (Ledøje Nordre Gade) before meeting the main road through the village (Ledøje Bygade) (GPS 55.71013 12.30349).
6 The continuation of the cycle route is 20m to the left (east), but if churches are your thing then Ledøje Church, 400m to the west, is worth visiting for its unusual two storey construction. This was presumably to allow the landed gentry to keep aloof from the common people.
Take the continuation of cycle route 69 (signposted Ishøj Strand), that runs between the houses, which leads quickly into open countryside. Almost 2km further the track crosses the stream and tarmac turns to gravel. Shortly after another track joins from the left. Keep going south (straight ahead).
Viking Bridge and Kroppedal Museum:
After another 650m the track meets a forest (GPS 55.68894 12.32003). The track to the left, through the forest leads to a reconstructed viking village (Vikingelandsbyen).
7 Conversely to the right is a reconstructed viking track and bridge crossing the stream, with an example cross-section of the bridge standing in the field to show the construction method.
On the other side of the bridge, hidden behind trees, is the Kroppedal Museum. Amongst other things this celebrates the acheivment of astronomer Ole Rømer who proposed that light has a finite speed and measured the positions of Jupiter's moons to prove it.
Our route continues south, with the forest on the left, until you meet a road (Snubbekorsvej). Cross the road and take the right hand track. After 300m the track forks by Albertslund golf course (GPS 55.67738 12.32261). Take the right hand branch which leads to a subway under the motorway.
Soon you come to another fork, in the track, take the left fork, and then shortly after at the next fork, go right. At the next junction (GPS 55.66162 12.32306) go straight ahead which leads to a bridge over Roskildevej. Continue straight ahead and after 600m go under the railway via a grating running above the stream.
Emerging from the tunnel, the cycle route 69 used to turn right here, but this is now blocked by a major landscaping project, so take the track on the left (GPS 55.65503 12.32924). Head east for 300m then south for 200m to a junction (GPS 55.65300 12.33492) and take the brick paved path on the right "Storvejle: Stien". Zig-zag along this track and continue ahead crossing a bridge over the lake. Continue straight ahead into the trees and emerging from the other side turn left.
8 Continue straight ahead through the park until you reach the restaurant at the south end of Tueholm Lake (GPS 55.64273 12.35188). If you are inclined to seek them out the park contains two of Thomas Dambo's giants; figures made from recycled wood.
Continue in the same direction to leave the park at Rendsagervej. Turn right and at the major junction with Vejlegårdsvej go straight ahead onto Vallensbækvej. After 400m a sign for a cycle track to Vallensbæk Strand appears on the right (GPS 55.64344 12.36239). Turn right onto this track and at the bottom of the ramp turn left.
After passing under a motorway and railway turn left at the junction and at the top of the ramp turn right onto Kirkebakke Alle (signposted Vallensbæk Church).
9 Heading south you come to the new circular Helligtrekongers Church on the right and the traditional Vallensbæk Church on the left (GPS 55.63768 12.36516).
The oldest parts of the church (nave and choir) date from 1150-1200, while the kalkmalerier were added between 1460 and 1480. If you have seen the paintings in any of the other churches you will note a different style (artist). As usual the majority of the pictures depict episodes from the bible, although a more contemporary image of Saint Olaf aboard a ship, harrased by a mermaid and devil can be found. There is also an intriguing image of Jesus heading for the realm of the dead, apparently riding a skateboard.
Leaving the church, head south on Kirkebakke Alle to the junction with the road (Brøndbyvej). Turn left and after 200m at the junction with Højrupgårdsvej take the cycle track on the right immediately after the road (GPS 55.63748 12.36791). This is cycle route 67 which leads directly to Vallensbæk train station.
Stay on this cycle track as it winds between school and sports grounds and then dives under a motorway. It then continues through a housing estate to a roundabout for cyklists and pedestrians. Straight over this roundabout, through another housing estate to a ramp which leads up over two roads. A sharp right is followed by the down ramp.
The building on the left is the town-hall. Continue to its end and turn left, just before the railway, and go along Vallensbæk Stationstorv and the paved area ahead to the entrance of Vallensbæk Station (in the tunnel) (GPS 55.62358 12.38817). The S-tog A line (towards Hillerød) will take you back to central Copenhagen.
Notes on church wall paintings - kalkmalerier:
Medieval wall paintings in Denmark are one of its national treasures as there
are more surviving in this little country than in any other. They were hidden
for centuries, following the reformation, under a layer of limewash (kalk) and
only revealed when this was removed over the last two centuries.
A comprehensive website can be found at Kalkmalerier,dk
An old-school printed book (in Danish) is
Politikens Bog Om Danmarks Kalkmalerier by Axel Bolvig.