In front of the Jelling Church in Denmark stands two stones that easily become special points of interest especially for first time visitors. These two stones are actually 10th century royal gravestones having runic inscriptions. Collectively known as the Jelling Stones, they , together with the Church have been listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites since 1994.
The smaller stone is actually older between the two. It was raised by King Gorm the Old in honor of his wife, Thyra. The larger stone in turn was raised by the King’s son in memory of his parents. It is often referred to as the equivalent of Denmark’s certificate of Christianity because of the inclusion of the country’s name and the religious markings. Beyond the commemoration of three people, these stones are said to represent the transition that took place in Denmark from Norse Paganism to Christianization.
The stones had to be enclosed in protective casing to protect them from further deterioration brought upon by time and the weather. There are at least three known copies made of the Jelling Stones which can be found in the Danish Church in London, the National Museum of Denmark, and the Cathedral of Utrecht. Although no longer quite evident in their present condition, the stones were originally painted in bright colors.
It is worth noting that the stones were placed over the remains of a stone ship. This makes the place all the more interesting. The ship or whatever remained of it during that time is believed to have some significance related to Queen Thyra’s monument.