The city came to prominence in the Viking age, when it was the capital of Denmark. Harald Bluetooth built Zealand’s first wooden-stave Christian church here in 980. It was replaced by a stone building in 1026 on the instructions of a woman named Estrid, whose husband was assassinated in the stave church after a heated chess match (only in Scandinavia!). The foundations of the 11th-century stone church are beneath the floor of the present-day cathedral.
Medieval Roskilde was a thriving trade centre and the powerhouse of Danish Catholicism, big enough to support the country’s grandest cathedral. The town began its decline when the capital moved to Copenhagen in the early 15th century, and its population shrank radically after the Reformation in 1536.