Why Is There a Ship Hanging in a Church?

Aarhus Cathedral Votive Ship Poster

Aarhus Cathedral, Denmark, Votive Ship.

In many churches in Scandinavia, you’ll see a ship hanging from the ceiling, a symbol of how important the sea is to the Nordic people. The ship reflects an old Nordic tradition of giving offerings for the protection of loved ones at sea and is a reminder of those lost at sea. The ship models are often called votive ships.

The ship model in the Aarhus, Denmark, Cathedral originally served another purpose — it was among those created (probably in the Netherlands) to show Russian Czar Peter the Great what the ships he ordered would look like. The cathedral’s ship (dated 1720) is named Enigheden (English: Unity). The ship carrying the model, however, sunk near the northern coast of Denmark, a reminder of the dangers of the sea. The model survived in good shape and was purchased by Danish fishermen as a gift to the cathedral, which is the largest church in Denmark. The Aarhus Cathedral model ship is also the largest votive ship in Denmark.

Akureyri Church Interior, Iceland Photo Print

Ship model hanging in Akureyri Lutheran Church in Akureyri, Iceland.

What is a Votive Ship?

More Photos of Aarhus Cathedral Ship.

About Aarhus Cathedral.

About Akureyri Church.

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7 Comments

Filed under History, Photography, Travel

7 responses to “Why Is There a Ship Hanging in a Church?

  1. I enjoy your posts!! Beautiful captures and I learn something new every time I stop by… Thank you.

    • Thank so much, Rebecca. I wish I would have paid more attention to other hanging ships I might have seen in churches, but there is so much to see, and usually we are being herded through. 🙂

      • I am so glad you captured this one. A few years ago I attended a Nordic church in Vancouver. The church had the same nautical theme as your photo. I find it fascinating how culture can travel around the globe. Truly exciting.

  2. Yes, I have seen many of these. Your photos are gorgeous!

  3. How interesting, never seen anything like this before in a church.

  4. I’ll keep an eye open for these in my future travels, Catherine. I can’t say I’ve seen one so far. Very interesting!
    Your images are delightful. I love the colours in the Akureyri Lutheran Church. You captured it beautifully.

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