The Domkirke at Roskilde is the major ecclesiastical site of Zealand, but this church has been the site of royal burials for 150 years. It was constructed by King Valdemar I (1157-82) on the site of a previous abbey. His original intent was that the church serve as a burial site for his father, Duke Knud Lavard, who was slain by Magnus the Strong, son of King Niets (1104-34). The beloved Knud Lavard was entombed here, beginning a tradition of using the church as a burial site for the Valdemar dynasty. In 1169, Knud Lavard was canonized by the pope. The tradition of burying kings and queens of Denmark here continued until 1341. Valdemar I's larger motive in building the church was to use it to bring together the influences of the Catholic hierarchy and the Valdemar dynasty.

In the early 20th century, ill-advised restorers altered the style of the original church, but much remains from the Middle Ages, even the 11th-century travertine blocks from the older abbey church built on this site.

In 1885, King Frederik VII ordered that the royal tombs be unsealed. In a church chapel, you can see the treasures found in these tombs, including a lead tablet from the tomb of Valdemar the Great, plus silks from the grave of Valdemar the Victorious. The tombs themselves -- marked by a series of flat stones -- were buried beneath the nave on the aisle floor. Such notables as Valdemar III and his queen, Eleonora; the twice-married Valdemar II with his queens, Dagmar and Benegærd; Knud VI; Valdemar I and his queen, Sofia; and the already-mentioned Duke Knud Lavard are all entombed here. Many long-forgotten royals suffered the indignity of having their tombs removed to make way for later royal personages. Chief among these was the beloved Queen Dagmar, born a princess in Bohemia and still revered in Danish folk ballads. Much loved by the people of Denmark, she died prematurely in 1212. When her grave was removed to make way for the tomb of Erik VI (Menved) and his Queen Ingeborg, a gold cross with detailed enamel work was found. The Dagmar Cross is believed to date from around 1000. Today it is displayed in the National Museum in Copenhagen, but local jewelry shops sell replicas of this pendant. Today, brides marrying in Skt. Bendts often wear replicas of the Dagmar Cross.

In the choir and on the cross vaulting, you can see some notable chalk paintings. Some of Zealand's best church frescoes are in the nave, especially a series depicting events in the life of King Erik IV. He was called "King Ploughpenny," because of a tax he imposed on ploughs throughout his kingdom. These frescoes were painted at the beginning of the 14th century in a failed attempt to have the king canonized (the pope declined). One fresco shows Queen Agnes, wife of Erik IV, seated on a throne; another immediately to her left depicts the murder of Erik IV, his attackers stabbing him with a spear. In another fresco, the king's corpse is being rescued at sea by fishermen.

Other notable features in the church include pews from 1591 with dragon motifs. The richly adorned altarpiece is from 1699, and the even older pulpit dates from 1609. The baptismal font is the oldest relic of all, believed to date from some time in the 1100s.