About Osterlars Round Church
Osterlars Round Church (Østerlars Rundkirke) is a well-known circular church in Bornholm in Denmark, believed to date back to 1150 and dedicated to Saint Laurentius.
One of four such churches in Bornholm, Osterlars Round Church was staunchly built in order to withstand the possible threat of pirates.
Osterlars Church features as one of our top ten Danish tourist attractions.
Osterlars Round Church history
Osterlars Round Church is Bornholm’s biggest and oldest round church. It dates back to 1150, although its roof was added much later.
The building originally served as both a place of worship and a fortified refuge against seafaring invaders. Its origins are a bit of a mystery. One theory maintains that round churches are often associated with the Knights Templar, but no one really knows for sure who built them or why. Another theory attributes the building’s shape to its possible use as an observatory.
The church’s interior features historic murals which depict the birth of Christ, the gates of hell, and various foreboding Judgement Day scenarios.
Dating to roughly 1350, they were painted over during the Reformation like many frescos in Denmark’s oldest churches. Fortunately, these were uncovered in the 1800s and restored in 1958.
During the 16th century, a number of pillars were added to support the outer wall. The conical roof was replaced in the 17th century. The porch is from 1870. The bell tower stands separately from the church in the churchyard, and the bell tower was the original entrance and gate tower.
Osterlars Round Church today
Today, the medieval church remains a hub of modern activity. It still holds regular services, and tourists are welcome to wander through when services are not in session.
Visitors can enter Osterlars Round Church and climb to the top for spectacular views. Staff are on hand Mondays to Saturdays, 9am-5pm from May to October for those who want to know more about the site.
During the winter months, admission is free between the morning and evening bells. There are public toilets and plenty of parking.
Getting to Osterlars Round Church
The church is easily accessible by public transport and can be reached on bus 1 or 9 from Gudjem or bus 4 from Rønne. There is also a 5km cycle path to the church that leads inland south from Gudjem that may be of interest to some visitors.