Sunday, October 19, 2008

Asser Skjalmsen Rig, * ab. 1080 + 1151, ~ Inge Eriksdatter (Fru Inge), * ab. 1100 + 1157

Sasserstenen by Fjenneslev Church

At Fjenneslev Church is a runestone called Fjenneslevstenen or Sasserstenen. It informs us that "Sasser raised stone and built bridge'". It has been dated to late Viking Period or early medieval period; Sasser is not known, but he might have been a part of Toke Trylle's family. The name diversion "'Asser'" is used also later in the Hvide-family. To build a bridge in early Christian time was a true deed of faith and something to be remembered for. Fjenneslev was a place of importance, and the late uncertain date of the stone allows the hypothesis that the stone might be raised by Asser Skjalmsen Rig. (Source: '"hi de var af stor slægt'"by Helle Halding and Marianne Johansen 2001)

Fru Inge and Asser Rig give God a gold ring and a church.

This so called stifterbillede (founder's picture) is the earliest known in Denmark. It is painted on the triumph wall in Fjenneslev Church. The picture of Asser Rig and fru Inge are not real portraits, they only show a magnate and his lady, who give a gold ring and a church model to God's hand, which is seen in the corner of the painting. A founder's picture was some sort of guarantee for not being forgotten as the donor of a church in the honour of God and in the remembrance of the founder. The church model has twin towers, but the towers were built half a century after the picture was painted. The picture just shows "a great church". Archeaological examinations have shown that the picture is painted at the completion of the church, since the paint plaster is under the original floor. (Source: "Thi de var af stor slægt'"by Helle Halding and Marianne Johansen, 2001)

Tveje Merløse Church was built by Asser Rig

Tveje Merløse church

Asser Rig and his wife Inge Eriksdatter, named fru Inge, lived at the family estate in the village Fjenneslevlille. Inge Eriksdatter was a daughter of Erik Jarl and Cæcilia, who was a daughter of Knud den Helllige and Adele of Flandern. Although Asser was the third son, he inherited the family farm. The eldest son did not have the first right to the family estate at that time. Asser and fru Inge had two sons, Absalon and Esbern Snare; there is a legend about them being twin brothers, and how fru Inge let build the twin-towered church in Fjenneslev to welcome her husband from war, but this is a legend. Esbern was Absalon's big brother, and the twin towers of Fjenneslev Church were built fifty years later, actually by Absalon. Asser Rig and fru Inge had also a daughter Ingefred, who was married to Peder af Borup.

A royal lion in Grønbæk church.

During a period there was an important resident at Asser and fru Inge's farm in Fjenneslevlille, the little Valdemar, probably the first boy in Denmark baptized Valdemar. He was named after his maternal great-grandfather Vladimir of Kiev. His paternal grandfather was Erik I Ejegod of Denmark, his father was Knud Lavard, hertug of Sønderjylland and knes (prince) over two Vendic tribes. Knud was murdered by his cousin Magnus in Haraldsted in 1131, a few days before Valdemar was born. Knud's widow, Ingeborg, decided - customlike - to leave her fatherless son with her friends, and she chose Asser Rig as fosterfather for her son - a very natural choice, since Knud Lavard himself had once been fostered by Asser's father Skjalm Hvide.

Madonna med barnet
Asperup kirke

A family like this was the principal element in life. A human being belonged first of all to the family, which was represented by the male head in all public connections. A typical family obligation was the penance . If one of Asser Rig's family killed someone, then Asser and the other close relatives had to contribute to the penance, which was entitled to the close relatives of the killed person.

In this male dominated society the female members surprisingly meant almost as much as the male members. The families were therefore not mutually as sharply divided, as they would have been, if they only counted the male lines. This is very striking in the Hvide-family, where Skjalm's descendants in the direct paternal line during few generations only accounted for a small minority. Many of the men, who had married into the family, were now closely inside the family; from the 1200s they used the Hvide's coat of arms, and they were buried in Sorø Klosterkirke, which was considered the family burial church from the 1160s.

In Fjenneslev Asser was the leader of the business, but fru Inge was according to sources a very energetic lady, who wasn't without influence. Married women had else no right to interfere in their husband's dispositions, but they had their own fortune and personal inheritance and were considered legal persons, and strong women with important families in the background did not have to put up with anything. The way how the women stand side by side with their husbands upon the founder pictures in Fjenneslev and Gørlev Church do signal more equality than subordination.

Viborg cathedral

Fru Inge was a very strong and active lady. After 'Blodgildet i Roskilde', where Knud was killed, Valdemar first took flight by the help of Absalon to Ingefred's husband Peder of Borup and hereafter to his fostermother fru Inge in Fjenneslev. He had his wounds dressed and coursed by dawn for Jutland - where he was king - by Esbern Snare's help in order to tell about Svend's deceit at Viborg Thing. When Valdemar and Esbern came to Viborg he held a flaming speech for his people and showed his wounds and had no trouble in gathering a big peasant army.

On Sjælland Svend made his fleet ready for pursuing Valdemar, but fru Inge and her daughter Ingefred put obstacles in his way. During the night they let cut holes in Svend's ships and made them sink. Probably they had a good flock housecarls with them, and there is no knowing where Svend's fleet was, but it was possibly at anchor in Roskilde , so those two Hvide-Ladies must have had a long drive that night. Of course Assers family sided with the winning part in the pretenders' fight about the throne. Valdemar was their fosterson and fosterbrother.

Grathe Hede

Very short about Svend, Knud and Valdemar:
By his father Erik 2. Emune's death in 1137 ( he was killed 18. September by the squire 'Sorteplov' at a thing meeting in Ribe ) Svend was too young to become king. Erik 3. Lam was king, until he abdicated because of illness in 1146. Sjællænderne (The Zealanders) chose Erik Emune's son Svend and the Jutes chose Magnus' son Knud. In Skåne (Scania) they preferred Svend. Valdemar, the son of Knud Lavard, was naturally on Svend's side, since Knud Magnussen was the son of his father's murderer. Svend won the fight about the throne in the first round, but later it happened that Valdemar befriended Knud , because he became engaged to his half-sister Sofie. Knud and Valdemar rebelled against Svend, who had to leave Denmark and seek help in Germany. He came back with an army - the three throne pretenders had an agreement, and Denmark was split in three kingdoms.

On 9. August 1157 was an agreement-meeting and a supposedly friendly feast in Roskilde, where Svend treacherously tried to get rid of Valdemar and Knud. This agreement feast is known as 'Blodgildet i Roskilde' ('The Blood Feast in Roskilde'). Valdemar and Knud were attacked by armed men, while they weren't armed themselves. Knud was killed and Valdemar badly wounded. He succeeded in escaping (se story above) and went to Jutland where he gathered a big peasant army. Svend followed him to Jutland (after having mended his ships or found some new!) - but he lost the violent battle on 23. October 1157 against Valdemar's peasant army. After the battle Svend lost his way in some marsh and lost his weapon and equipment. He was caught and killed by a peasant by a stroke with an axe. This happened on Grathe Hede - and Svend was hereafter known as Svend Grathe. ( By Grågårde near Thorning was in the 1900s by the poet Thor Lange raised a granite cross in memory of Svend Grathe.)

Now Valdemar became the absolute ruler in Denmark, and he might not have survived Svend's murderous plans without the help from his loyal foster family.

Asser and fru Inge's children:
Esbern Assersen Snare * 1127 + 1204
Absalon Assersen * 1128 + 1201
Ingefred Assersdatter ~ Peder of Borup

photo: grethe bachmann

Information from Dansk Biografisk Lexicon :
(1887-1905),Carl Frederik Bricka,Project Runeberg

Asser (Rig), –o. 1151, was a son of the respected and mighty høvedsmand (military chief) at Zealand and Rügen, Skjalm Hvide, and was brought up together with Erik Ejegod's son Knud (Lavard). After his father's death ( in ab. 1114), he inherited his part of his riches and was, as his calling name suggests, a rich and powerful man himself. He lived at the farm Fjenneslev which was situated near Ringsted, and from which some remains have been found in the present village Fjenneslevlille. Here was it that his wife Inge, who was said to be of royal descent, bore him the twins Esbern Snare and Absalon (1128). (They also had a daughter Ingefred). Everyone knows about the legend saying that fru Inge let build two towers upon the church in Fjenneselv as the first sign to her husband about the twin birth, when he came home from war. (This is only a legend).When Knud Lavard 7 January 1131 was killed by his cousin Magnus, Asser Rig and his brothers saw to the funeral of their murdered fosterbrother, and together with Knud's friends they planned how to take revenge over Magnus and his conspirators.
During the following prolonged unrests where Asser probably took part, Knud's young son Valdemar found a home at Asser Rig and fru Inge in Fjenneslev, the beginning of the firm and loyal friendship, which bound Esbern and Absalon to him. Asser Rig spent his last years as a monk in Sorø kloster, which he and his brothers had established. On the thirteenth day after the inauguration of the new klosterkirke (ab. 1151) he died and had his last resting place in the choir. His wife, fru Inge, still lived in 1157.
translated from C. Weeke's Danish text: grethe bachmann ©copyright


beata said...

Excellent potted introduction to Danish history. Fascinating. Thank you, Thyra!

petersuhm said...

Hi, I have read some of your articles, especially about Esbern Snare and Asser Rig, with great interest! I find Fru Inge very interesting, and I am trying to find some good reliable sources to her ancestors. As far as i know, there are a huge uncertainty about who her father was. I would like to know where you have your information from, because you sound very secure about this case. I'm looking forward to hearing your reply!

- Peter