The Jelling Stones are located outside a church in the village of Jelling, Denmark (north of Vejle City in Central Jutland) at approximately 55° 45' 22.8" N, 9° 25' 12.2" E. They serve as tombstones but are often referred to as the "birth certificates of Denmark" since they act as a record of one of Denmark's earliest kings and feature the oldest known inscription of the word "Denmark."
The older of the two honors Queen Thyre (or Thyri or Thyra), the wife of King Grom the Old, last pagan king of Denmark. It is roughly rectangular, stands about 1.5 meters high, and has runic inscriptions on front and back. It was erected sometime between 940 and 958 and may have been one of many stones made to honor her passing.
The front inscription reads:
karthi kubl thusi
aft thurui kunu sina
"Gorm the king
made these runes
after his wife Thyre,
the penance of Denmark"
While on the back is written:
The slightly newer stone (if only by a couple decades) was placed by Harald Bluetooth, son of Gorm. It is larger at 2.43 m and a weight of 10 tons. Made in the shape of a three-sided pyramid, it contains one long inscription and two distinct pictures, each on its own side. One of the pictures is a lion (or griffin) and snake framed with interlacing bands while the last side holds one of the oldest known pictures of Christ.
The inscription reads as follows:
Haraltr kunukr bath kaurua
(Harald konge bød gøre)
kubl thausi aft kurm fathur sin
(kumler disse efter Gorm fader sin)
auk aft thaurui muthur sina sa
(og efter Thyra moder sin, den)
haraltr ias sar uan tanmaurk
(Harald som sig vandt Danmark)
Under picture of Lion:
ala auk nuruiak
(al og Norge)
Under picture of Christ:
auk tani karthi kristna
(og danerne gjorde kristne)
"King Harald erects these sepulchral
monuments in memory of Gorm, his father and
Thyre, his mother. Harald who won the whole
of Denmark and Norway
and turned the Danes to Christianity."
The stones originally stood outside of 3 wooden churches nearby. These burnt down and the larger stone was actually damaged by the heat of the blaze. In 1586, Caspar Markedaner dug the larger stone out of the ground and replaced it. Excavations performed in 1981 showed that the ground level had rose nearly a full meter since the original wooden churches were built. Grom's remains were once buried nearby the stone but were moved by Harald to a tomb under the floor of the church.
In 1627, the smaller stone was actually being used as a bench near the entrance of a new church built on the same ground and was placed in its current location some time before 1640. It is believed that the stone was originally part of a 170 meter long stone ship dedicated to Kings and Queens of Denmark. Queen Thyre's grave is thus lost since the stone was not only moved but may have been one of many such stones created. New graves have also destroyed many traces of previous burials.
Sources: http://www.fortidensjelling.dk/, http://www.alltraveldenmark.com/
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