Jelling kirke, Gorms grav

Jelling kirke, Gorms grav
Jelling kirke, Gorms grav

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Sune Ebbesen, * bef. 1125, + 1186

Bjernede church

Sune Ebbesen built a stone church in Bjernede where his parents Ebbe Skjalmsen and Ragnhild had built a wooden church. He let the bottom part of the church build in granite ashlars, but before it is finished the new material the baked bricks have turned up as building material in Denmark and the church is finished in bricks. Bjernede in Alsted district at Sjælland is the only round church left in Sjælland, and it's a sort of mystery, since from the room on the first floor it was impossible to witness the mass downstairs, unless there was a hole in the floor and people were on their stomach looking down. Possibly this was a private chapel, where the closest relatives could gather for mass.
Sune Ebbesen was a son of Ebbe Skjalmsen and Ragnhild. He was born before 1125 and died in 1186. He was married to Cecilie of Denmark. Her ancestors are unknown. Sune Ebbesen was during Knud's and Svend's united kingdom first a supporter for Svend (Grathe), but left Svend in 1153 or 1154 and joined Knud and Valdemar. Svend had asked his men for an oath of allegiance, and Sune simply walked out. Sune Ebbesen was not anybody, he was probably the mightiest magnate and owner of land in the country at that time.
Saxo describes it like this: ' When he (Sune) was asked to turn around, he complained that his father's estate had been taken from him. The king promised that he would have it returned, but Sune replied that this justice came late and that he not now when the king had bad luck would accept what the king had deprived him of, when he had success.' The young members of the Hvide-family were after this on the side of the allied. The only with a connection to the Hvide-family who stayed by Svend, was Peder Torstensen, who was married to Cæcilie Skjalmsdatter - in spite of that Valdemar had made him fosterfather of his illegitimate son Kristoffer. When the young Valdemar became an important part of Denmark's history Sune was like Esbern and Absalon one of the three men closest to the king. A full Hvide-team. Valdemar listened to his advice and Sune was with Valdemar at a meeting in Dole by the German emperor, where he in 1162 gave fief's oath. Sune and Valdemar were about the same age, Valdemar grew up at Asser Rig's, and most probably he knew Absalon and Esbern's cousins.Sune Ebbesen was like many of his relatives installed in Skåne as feudal overlord after Absalon became archbishop in Lund. After Valdemar's death he was also one of the men around the young Knud 6. and he participated in advising Knud to refuse giving oath to the German emperor like his father had done 20 years earlier. Sune was also on several expeditions to the Wends together with the other wellknown members of the war tours.
Saxo had admiration for Sune as a statesman and warrior, and one of the period's great literary personalities, abbot Vilhelm of Æbelholt describes him in the words: ' a cool-headed man' ....mighty in work and speech '.Sune Ebbesen was rich. Shortly before his death in 1186 he gave Sorø Kloster a gift, the same amount as a daughter had to inherit - this corresponded to an amount of 35 mark gold, and this part had to be multiplied with 17 from the number of his children. His property was 1000-1500 farms, he owned 1/10 of Sjælland - however there was room enough for the other members of the Hvide-clan to be almost equal as rich as Sune. The family was tremendously rich during the 1100s-1200s.The family in all gave away much property to the church, especially to Sorø Kloster. Sune, Absalon and Esbern Snare once promised a big part of their property to Sorø Kloster, and the monks valued this promise so much that they in 1182 got a confirmation from the pope on these promises, although the three generous donors still lived in the best of health. The monks' knowledge about Sune Ebbesen's, Absalon's and Esbern Snare's financial circumstances made them send express message to the pope, and this gives a proof of an almost incredible riches of estate.
Sune built the church in Bjernede in stone, where his parents Ebbe and Ragnhild had built a church in wood. He started with granite, but changed in the middle of the building to the new material: bricks. Sune Ebbesen was buried in Sorø 1186 beside his wife. His grandson Peder Kammermester was later buried in the same grave, and this might be the double grave, which was examined in 1970. From the grave catalogue the excavator was convinced that this was the grave of Esbern Snare, but unfortunately antropological examinations showed that the skeletons origined from two middle aged men, no one knew who they were, but their characteristic domed back of the head were typical for the Hvide-family. The skull which first supposedly was Esbern Snare might be Sune Ebbesen . The skeleton corresponds completely to Saxos stories about Esbern Snare: both arms, legs and ribs had been broken and the hip had been dislocated . The bones are from a person not over 60 years and Esbern was about 80 years at his death. The skeleton is undoubtedly a Hvide, and it gives witness at any rate what the rich magnates in the country exposed themselves to.

Sune and Cecilie had seven sons and one daughter:
Ebbe Sunesen * ab. 1158, + 1208
Peder Sunesen * ab. 1161, + 1214
Jens (Johannes) Sunesen, + 1201
Lars (Laurens) Sunesen, + 1208
Anders Sunesen* ab. 1164-65, + 1228
Torben Sunesen , + 1198
Jacob Sunesen, the youngest son, * ab. 1167-1170, + 1246
Margrethe Sunesdatter (Margrethe af Højelse) * ab. 1155 + 1177

Sune Ebbesen sent two of his sons, Peder and Anders on long and expensive studies in France, and they both had excellent careers in the Danish church. Peder Sunesen became bishop in Roskilde after Absalon, and Anders (Andreas) Sunesen became archbishop in Lund, also as a successor of their father's cousin Absalon. (see next section)

photo: grethe bachmann
From Dansk biografisk Lexicon,
Carl Frederik Bricka,
Project Runeberg

Ebbesen, Sune,
- 1186. His father Ebbe, a son of Skjalm Hvide, had in the disputes about the throne after Erik Lam's death taken side for Svend Grathe and was until his death (ab. 1150) one of his most trusted men. He himself joined likewise Svend from the first beginning, but later he detached from him. When Svend in 1154 gathered his men at Odense and questioned them if they would be true to him in the fight to come with his rivals Knud and Valdemar and demanded an oath of allegiance, Sune would not in any way fulfil this demand, but left Svend. As a reason he stated a wrong, which Svend once before had inflicted on him, but his behaviour on this occasion gives the impression that this was not the only reason. Without doubt it was just as much his friendship to Valdemar which decided his move. After Svend's fall (1157) a new and brighter period started with king Valdemar and Absalon, where Sune was needed in many ways. He was used as an advisor - it is definitely said that he and his two cousins Absalon and Esbern were the men, whose advice Valdemar used to listen to and mainly followed - but Sune was also needed as a warrior. In every expedition to the Wends - which was done year after year during Valdemars ruling period and sometimes twice a year - Sune is always mentioned as a participant.

For a time he was one of the king's vasals in Skaane and administered the business from there. These vasals were, because of their hardness and because they were from Sjælland, so unpopular that the Skaanings at last rebelled in 1180 in order to get rid of them. The rebellion, which in 1181 called upon the king and his army to come to Skaane, did not lead to the intended purpose. King Valdemar died in 1182 and his experienced advisors became his son Knud's advisors. Sune did not survive Valdemar for long; he participated in the negotiations with the German emperor's delegate, Graf Sigfred, and was in 1184 on an expedition to Pommeranian, but in 1186 he died after having given half his Boslod to Sorø Kloster, where he was buried.

He must have been an important man; wise and cool-headed, Abbed Vilhelm called him "stor i Gjerning og Tale" (a great mand both in word and deed). Sune left a daughter Margrethe, who might be the Margrethe who ab. 1177 was killed by her husband Herluf and for centuries was celebrated as a saint; and he left 7 sons; among whom Peder, who became bishop in Roskilde, and Anders, Absalons successor as Archbishop. (see his other children above)

Translated from C. Weeke's Danish text: grethe bachmann

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