Immediately south of Lønstrup is Mårup Kirke, which is threatened with collapse into the sea. When the church was built in the 13th century, there were a couple of kilometres to the coast. Since that time, erosion has inexorably gnawed away at the cliff, and now there are just 10 metres between the church and its doom.
The outer part of the churchyard has already disappeared down the cliff.
Local citizens have fought for years to have the church and its unique surroundings preserved. However, their efforts have not borne fruit, and if the development of the last few years continues at the same pace, the church is unlikely to still be standing 10 years from now.
The church itself is in fact nothing special; it's its location in the landscape and harsh surroundings in the magnificent scenery on the west coast that makes Mårup Kirke unique. The 40-metre-high cliff offers a fantastic view of the North Sea, and towards the south Rubjerg Knude towers up with its impressive sand dunes and lighthouse buried by the sand. The coast is also being severely eroded here. Speculation centres on whether it will be the church or the lighthouse that lasts longest.
The erosion of the coast is due to the cliff's forward location. If the tide is very high or if a storm is raging, the seawater sweeps away the foot of the cliff, thus undermining the entire slope. Rainwater and springs then gradually loosen the top part of the cliff, which then later crashes down onto the beach. Initially this debris helps to protect the cliff against further undermining, but after a while this earth and sand is washed away and the foot of the cliff is once more exposed to further attack.
There wasn't much money available, so only the pillars were constructed in brick, whilst the core of the wall and the zones between the pillars consist of fist-sized beach stones in lime mortar. This type of construction is not particularly strong, so it's been necessary to repair the walls on several occasions.
The entire southern wall of the church was thus rebuilt in 1787 – which explains the inscription that appears on the wall. The western gable was also reconstructed following the demolition of a Gothic tower. The arch of the tower can still be made out on the western wall inside the church. The porch was extended in around 1600.
A lot of the fixtures and furniture from Mårup Kirke are safeguarded in different ways. A late Gothic carving from the original altar has been moved to Lønstrup Kirke. The carving depicts the Virgin Mary, her mother St. Anne and the baby Jesus - a popular subject in the 16th century.
A granite baptismal font with brass dish from 1575 has been in the church in Lønstrup since 1928. The Romanesque granite font, which is decorated with plant ornamentation, is probably just as old as the church itself.
The threatening coastal erosion means that skeletal remains can fall down onto the beach below. These remains are collected by the Danish Forest and Nature Agency, and are then buried once more in a special grave at the churchyard in Lønstrup.
The northwestern section of the churchyard, which contains the famous "krigergrav”, is now severely eroded.
”Krigergraven”, or "warriors' grave", is said to contain the 226 sailors that were lost when the English frigate ”The Crescent” went down off the coast of Mårup in 1808. This claim is the subject of some dispute, however, and indeed the small size of the grave suggests that the majority of the sailors must be buried elsewhere. Perhaps the "warriors' grave" only contains the seven officers who drowned. There is a memorial describing the wreck in Lønstrup Kirke.
The ship's anchor at the church's western gable originates from The Crescent. It was salvaged from the wreck in 1940 and subsequently erected at the church.
In the eastern part of the churchyard is the campanile, which supports a bell from 1537. It was made by Lars Klokkestøber and carried the inscription: ”Help Jesus, Mary and Joseph.”
Mårup Kirke was built in the middle of the 13th century. In its original form it is late Romanesque, consisting of a rectangular nave and an almost completely square chancel. The north side has retained the original construction, which is typical for the region's brick-built churches. The walls are divided into zones by pillars and finished at the top by double or triple arches. The lower points of the arches are marked by animal heads.
Unusually many graves
In 1998 the National Museum surveyed Mårup Kirke in a quest to find frescoes. Only a few were discovered and the remains were in poor condition. Some of the remnants can be seen in the church.
Archaeological surveys have also been carried out of the top layer below the church floor. An unusually high number of graves were discovered from the 17th and 18th centuries. A few of the graves were older than the church. There must therefore have been a burial site at the location before the church was built, which has also been seen at other similar excavations. There may well have originally been a wooden church at the site.
The survey of the church by the National Museum also revealed remnants of decorations. The oldest element is a double circle engraved into the rendering on the chancel's north wall. This may be a cross of inauguration from when the church was built.
On the church's eastern and northern walls and in the chancel arch the remains of late Medieval decorations are found, probably dating back to around 1500.
The windswept churchyard still contains a number of family graves, but no burials have taken place since 1961. A few urns have been put in the ground, however.
The nave of the church was erected in 1842 by merchant Aksel Rosenkrantz Segelcke. It's now kept at Vendsyssel Historiske Museum in Hjørring. Other furniture is kept at the National Museum, including the pulpit, which dates back to the middle of the seventeenth century.
The society has made great endeavours over the years to preserve the Medieval church with its unique location. In 2004 the society managed to re-establish some of the fixtures and furniture in the church. The society holds meetings in the church, where songs are sung and the church's history is recounted.
Read more about the society
The church is open from morning to evening during the period 1 June to 1 September. Otherwise it's possible to borrow a key from Lønstrup Turistbureau. The friends of the church (Mårup Kirkes Venner) also sometimes open the church to the public at weekends and on public holidays.