I visited Danevirke as part of the IBRG DEDK21 expedition. Danevirke is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is an ancient frontier earthwork of ramparts and ditches built by the Danes across the neck of Jutland in order to block Frankish expansion into the area. It ultimately extended to an overall length of about 30 km from just south of the town of Schleswig to the marshes of the river Trene near the village of Hollingstedt. The structure was built between about 650 and 1200 CE. It is a very old border with evidence suggesting it was begun in 500 CE. Today there is a museum and visitor centre (details here).
The main structure of the Danevirke had been built in three phases between AD 737 and 968. It is, therefore, contemporary with Offa’s Dyke on the border between Wales and England. The Danevirke was reconstructed and enlarged about 808 by Godfrey, king of Denmark. In 934 it was penetrated by the German king Henry I, after which it was extended by the Danish king Harald I Bluetooth (c. 940–c. 985), but it was stormed by the German emperor Otto II in 974. After the union of Schleswig and Holstein under the Danish crown in the 15th century, the Danewirk fell into decay. In 1848, though, it was hastily strengthened by the Danes, who were, however, unable to hold it in the face of the superiority of Prussian artillery, and on April 23 it was stormed.
From 1850 onward, the Danevirke was again repaired and strengthened at great cost but was breached/bypassed by the Prussians in 1864. Partially destroyed, the wall was excavated from 1900 and now is a protected archaeological monument.
In WWII the remains were at further risk of being destroyed by the German Army who planned to build modern defensive structures on the site. A Danish archaeologist was able to persuade the German’s not to destroy valuable “Aryan” heritage.
Date of Visit: 26 September 2021