Vignette - Shelter
Vignette - Shelter

Outside it was blowing 60 kilometers per hour. The only mercy in it was that they were going the way the wind blew them. So they made good time. But there was constant stress: The stress of maintaining control rolling down the highway while cars and trucks passed, sometimes dramatically changing the wind pattern for a second or two. The stress of the noise, the roar of the wind in your ears. The stress of the cold, the numb hands and nose, contrasted with the sweaty warmth from the effort of biking while wrapped in several layers. So when they approached the church it wasn’t just as tourists that they stopped, but as people in need of refuge.

Denmark is flat. The wind rips over the whole country on its hurried way from high pressure to low. So they could see the church for some time before they arrived. They rolled impossibly fast (60 kilometers per hour!) at times making the wind feel like still air. The countryside all around was self similar as kilometer after kilometer whizzed by. Fields of rapeseed shone uniformly yellow in flower. Wind generators cranked away under the pressure. And always the church was visible in the distance; tall, stout, and pink. The colors became hard to believe when the distant bruised purple sky of a rainstorm arranged itself to fall behind the pink church, while somehow the sun shone on the endless fields of yellow flowers and the gleaming blades of towering wind generators.

They arrived, and the church seemed like the wrong size from up close. Was it too small? Too big? At this distance the perfect smooth pink walls could be seen to hide boulders, bricks, square stones, and rough hewn ones as well. The apparently perfect walls were a gumbo of the masonry arts. They opened the gate and rolled through the stone wall that encircled the church. Inside a graveyard lay on three sides of the main edifice. They looked down at the names and dates. The names were all strange. Many of the dates were very recent.

Out of respect they first found shelter on the leeward side of the church, where they took their morning shots of Scotch. And then, fortified, they went inside.

Silence. Still air. Calm. What they saw took their breath away. The arched ceilings that loomed overhead were bright white and illuminated with an unbelievably primitive but nonetheless compelling tangle of morality plays and biblical scenes. Blood spouted from Jesus’s many wounds. Snakes and naked ladies were handing out apples. Arabian kings brought gifts. It went on forever, mapping scene onto scene as the cartoons traversed the uneven terrain of the faceted and vaulted ceiling.

Once their ears adjusted to the new normal they could once again hear the rushing wind outside, and hear the scattered drops of rain that pelted the stained glass on the windward side.

Above them a scene showed a demon encouraging a line of sinners to jump into the flaming mouth of some monster. Going the opposite direction was a lineup of the saintly. They were being granted admission to what must have been heaven, though it was rendered as a big masonry structure. Back in 1500 when the artist was working away, laying on his back, painting these scenes, listening all the while to the storms howl outside, he must have felt he was already in heaven. So he painted heaven as a church.

In 2019 the church also served as a serviceable heaven for passing bike tourers.