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Trip back in time to Esrum Abbey

My way of leaning a new language is to understand its culture. As part of my journey to become Danish, I love to explore Denmark’s history. There are many historical places north of Copenhagen just waiting for me to explore. This time, we took a day trip to Esrum Abbey in the town of Graested. Founded in the 12th century as the first Danish monastery, the abbey played an important role during the Reformation of Denmark in the 16th century.

We drove from Copenhagen to Esrum Abbey for about an hour. The abbey itself is surround by beautiful scenery, allowing for a peaceful moment to walk around and absorb the nature and the culture.

Before entering the abbey we walked into a room where kids (and small adults) can dress in medieval costumes and play with authentic wooden toys. At the arched basement of the abbey we walked into a shop and cafe which is very nicely decorated. I could visit this place every day if I lived in this area.

Inside the abbey, in the historical rooms, there are interactive permanent exhibitions for visitors to lean about the Reformation in Denmark. For me, the most exiting exhibition was ‘The Human in the Abbey’ — a very high-tech display which in quite ingenious fashion uses light to play with the human mind. The ring-shaped lights, forming a globe, represents the repetitive life of monks and nuns as stated in the Cistercians Order in the medieval period.

In another room, we walked into darkness. Not a sound. Then, all the sudden, a rhythmic chant descended upon us while pillars of light suspended from the ceiling started glowing according to the rhythm of the chant. Very creatively, each pillar represents the sound of a monk praying to God. And by standing in front of the room facing all the pillars, somehow, I actually felt the (spiritual) power of the chanting rush over me. It was enlightening and surprising at the same time to hear a chant in Latin that was so similar to the Buddhist chants that I’ve grown accustomed to through my upbringing in Thailand.

There are still many historical places that I haven’t yet explored. But I would not mind revisiting Esrum Abbey and learn more about the Reformation.

With its power struggles and influx of new ideas, the Reformation of the medieval period, to me, sounds like a ongoing theme even in the 21st century. Churches might have been replaced by a different calling, but the battle between conservatives of progressives remains. That should not surprise anyone, though. When it comes to faith, power and chaos, the story often repeats itself.

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