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Denmark: Skagen, Sand-Covered-Church, Rubjerg Knude Lighthouse and the Power of nature

3 min read


Skagen is a town in Denmark located in the region of northern Jutland, in whose area there is Grenen, a sandy strip that extends to the north-east at the point where two parts of the North Sea join. Skagen can be considered a natural pearl, with an environment that has inspired many local artists between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, artists whose works are exhibited among other things in the Skagen Museum, but also many fishermen.

In the area there are some suggestive abandoned places, such as the Den Tilsandede Kirke: tiring of digging out the door to this church for every service, it was eventually abandoned to the sands.
Rising out of the sands in Skagen, the remaining tower of a once prosperous chapel now known simply as the Sand-Covered Church (or Buried Church, or Old Skagen Church).

Neither man nor God could save this church that was originally dedicated to Saint Lawrence of Rome. Built in 14th century, it was the largest church in the region. However around 1600, increasing desertification began taking its toll on the building: the rapid erosion of cliff rocks overlooking the North Sea meant that the sand that was produced invaded the area and surrounded the church, almost burying it at the end of the eighteenth century.
Rising levels of sand began to bury the foundations faster than they could be dug out, while sand found its way to the interior of the aging church through every crack.
The faithful had to dig to get there and when the situation got even more complicated, they abandoned it: it was 1795. Today you can only see the tower.

Moreover, as an abandoned place of Skagen, again because of the sand, there is the Lighthouse of Rubjerg Knude, an abandoned lighthouse awaits its destiny: being buried under shifting sand.
Wind from the North Sea blasts up the cliffs toward the lighthouse, and has steadily caused sands to move and bury the structure.
This Lighthouse stands on a cliff 60 meters above the North Sea level, near the town of Lønstrup. It was inaugurated in 1900 and has not been active since 1968 precisely because of the rapid erosion of the coast, on average 1.5 meters of rock per year, and the movement of the surrounding sands, 9 meters each year: it almost seems to be in the desert, rather than in a location in Northern Europe, with events which rapidly changing the landscape around the lighthouse.
When the lighthouse was built, a few other small buildings were still nearby. The Mårup Church near the lighthouse, a residence built next to the structure and small gardens have all since been destroyed by nature.
Even if the lighthouse stopped functioning, it stayed alive for a few more decades as a museum and coffee shop. But slowly, the force of the sand overtook the lighthouse, causing its abandonment in 2002.

Efforts in the 1990s were taken to plant grass and other foliage to stop the spread of the sand, but it wasn’t enough.
The Rubjerg Knude Lighthouse was recently reopened to the public and a special panoramic landscape structure was created. Now there is a stairway to access the building and a kaleidoscope that moves with the wind and creates special plays of light and images between the outside and the inside of the tower, to make everything even more suggestive. Will this serve to find solutions to save the lighthouse, the last building to remain standing against the sand, even if as it is expected to plummet into the sea by 2023?

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