Denmark's earliest wooden church, built around A.D. 860, once stood on this spot. In 1150 it was rebuilt in the Romanesque style, opening onto the main square of town, but over the years has been remodeled and altered considerably. The south portal remains a rare example of Danish Romanesque sculpture, and is known for its carved tympanum depicting the Descent of Christ from the Cross. Most of the kirke was built of a soft porous rock (tufa) found near the German city of Cologne and shipped north along the Rhine River. Before the Dom was completed, 100 years would go by. Several Gothic features such as arches were later added, but the overall look is still a Rhineland Romanesque. The wide nave is flanked by aisles on both sides, and the church is surmounted by a dome. The interior holds treasures from many eras, including mosaics, stained glass, and frescoes in the eastern apse by the artist Carl-Henning Pedersen, who created them in the 1980s. Older treasures include an organ designed by Jens Olufsen in the 1600s, plus an elaborate altar from 1597 by the renowned sculptor Kens Jens Asmussen.
The Devil, or so it is said, used to enter the Domkirke through the "Cat's Head Door", once the principal entryway into the church. The location is found at the south portal of the transept. The triangular pediment depicts Valdemar II and his queen, Dagmar, positioned at the feet of Mary and her infant son. Talk about tradition: Daily at noon and 3pm the cathedral bell still tolls in mourning of Dagmar's death during childbirth.
For the most panoramic view of Ribe and the surrounding marshes, climb the 248 steps to the cathedral tower left over from 1333. A watchman once stood here on the lookout for floods, which frequently inundated Ribe.