Kakkelproduktion i Danmarks middelalder og renæssance


  • Ole Kristiansen




kakkelproduktion, Danmark, middelalder, renæssance


Tile production in the Danish Middle Ages and Renaissance

Everyday life in the Renaissance and Early Modern times has long been a neglected area in archaeology and much evidence has been lost. When the Department of Medieval Archaeology at the University of Aarhus, Moesgård added Renaissance Studies to the teaching curriculum in 2005, this provided an opportunity, together with new Danish museum legislation, to redress this situation.

In the Renaissance, fundamental changes took place in housing, due in part to the introduction of the tile stove as a “bilægger”, i.e. a stove fed from an adjacent room. This provided an opportunity for the creation of a private, comfortable living room. In rural areas, however, the tile stove was also seen in direct association with a bread oven or as a smoke oven. Among the upper echelons of society – royalty, the Church and the aristocracy, with their strong links to European culture south of the Baltic – the tile stove became known as early as the 13th century. The earliest evidence of this is from the Cistercian Monastery at Sorø. Here, sherds have been found ofhandmoulded deep beaker-shaped vessel tiles. The outer surfaces of these were decorated with wavy lines and encircling grooves, as seen on typical 13th century Baltic-ware pottery from Zealand (fig. 1). When built into an oven, the decoration would not have been visible (fig. 2). From the episcopal/royal castles of Søborg and Gurre there are thrown, glazed beaker-shaped vessel tiles from the 14th century (fig. 3). The handmade, unglazed vessel tiles with a square rim from the royal castle ofVordingborg are broader and shallower (fig. 4); on some the base is rounded. Similar tiles were manufactured as late as the 19th century as “jydepotter”, i.e. black pots from Jutland (fig. 5). In the houses of wealthier citizens, such as Kragsnap’s House in Nykøbing Falster and Branda Huset in Helsingborg in Scania, there were stoves constructed of Late Gothic deep vessel tiles with specially formed openings (fig. 6). At the beginning of the 16th century, these developed into a green glazed, relatively shallow turned vessel tile with a reinforced rim, often with a flower or several concentric circles at the base. This type continued up into the 17th century (fig. 7). In terms of the skill needed in their firing and glazing, all these various vessel tiles were consistent with the abilities of a local potter and they are probably all of domestic origin, modelled on foreign examples.

From Late Medieval times, there are imported concave panel and niche tiles, such as Den grønne sten fra Nielstrup and archaeological examples from Vridsløsemagle, Ribe and Gurre. Most of them carry a religious, Catholic message. However, two fragments of matrixes for concave panel tiles, dated to around 1500 and found in Aalborg, bear witness to an early production of moulded stove tiles in Denmark (fig. 8).

With the Reformation, relations to Protestant Germany via Kings Christian III and Frederik II were strengthened. Danish students in Wittenberg and Greifswald and itinerant German craftsmen brought with them new furnishing traditions to Denmark. The tile stove became commonplace. The heyday of these stoves began around 1550 when domestic production became profitable. German potters settled in Denmark, bringing with them their moulds and their expertise, also as stove fitters. Production began of concave, quadrangular and rectangular panel tiles bearing images with a religious or political message. On the reverse they had a rumpe, a shallow funnel-shaped protrusion, which had an important function when fitting the tiles to form the stove.

From around 1600, the tile stove was gradually replaced by the iron stove, although the latter did retain for some time an upper tower-like section clad in rectangular tiles. Initially, iron stoves were imported from Germany, but with the introduction of a Danish protectionist policy in the 1640s, production was started in Norway.

Despite local production in the 16th century, imports of stove tiles and matrixes increased. Sometimes the origin of these can be determined on the basis of the ware; greyish-white Halle clay, for example, indicating Central Germany. Some polychrome stove tiles can be identified as imports from the Upper Weser area. No workshops producing polychrome stove tiles have been demonstrated in Denmark. Even though a workshop in Næstved was familiar with tin glaze and metallic-oxide colours, only polychrome floor tiles were produced there.

Often the date of the stove tiles, or more correctly of the patrixes, can be determined on the basis of the motif and the graphic source on which it is modelled.

For instance, the patrix for a matrix found in Copenhagen bearing the picture of HERSI HANS must have been carved after 1547, when he lost his title as Elector of Saxony, and prior to his death in 1554. On a stove tile modelled on a medal struck on his appointment in 1532 and attributed to Matthes Gebel, he is referred to as Johann Friedrich Kurfürst. Patrixes, and probably also most matrixes, were imported, but the origin of a patrix for the Fortuna stove tile from Næstved from 1585, attributed to Abel Schroder the Elder, is perhaps open to discussion (fig. 9). A patrix for a medallion tile from about 1550-80 from Århus (fig. 15), and patrix frames and a mould for patrix frames for arcade tiles from about 1600 from Flensburg (fig. 19), are the only definite indications we have oflocal production. Re-working of newly-made matrixes, pirate copies and potters’ botching also occurred (figs. 16, 17 and 21). On the basis of this, and inspired by Der Hafner from Jost Ammen’s Ständebuch (fig. 12), the author has experimented with the production of matrixes and stove tiles (figs. 10 and 11). Accounts are then given of seven localities where traces of stove-tile production have been found. Potters’ kilns have been excavated in Lund and Aalborg, (figs. 13 and 14). In Århus, there were layers containing rejects, kiln shelves and matrixes (fig. 15). In Næstved, deposits have been excavated containing rejects which include tiles bearing Fortuna and the West Zealand version of Judith (figs. 18.4 and 16). Clay pits backfilled with rejects from the workshop have also been discovered there. In Slagelse, an area has been excavated containing workshop refuse in the form of old or broken matrixes, reject stove tiles, kiln shelves and tools (figs. l7 and 18). In Flensburg, a potter’s workshop was excavated, revealing a great number of tiles, a few patrix frames and more than 90 matrixes, of which several are clear evidence of potters’ botching (figs. 19, 20 and 21). Impressions of matrixes from this workshop were used by the bell-caster Michel Bibler as ornamentation on bronze fonts for churches in Flensburg and Eckernförde (fig. 22). In Holbæk, layers containing rejects and matrixes from a potter’s workshop in the neighbourhood have been located. A rectangular stowe tile from 1611, showing the upper body of a lute-playing prince, was produced in a matrix trixwith a two-piece picture area. The upper part of this was used for a stove tile in Slagelse, but in a different frame (fig. 18.6). All the workshops investigated proved to belong to the second half of the 16th century, with the main weight of activity around 1600. From Køge, however, there are matrixes bearing the inscription 1662MB on the reverse. These indicate an active workshop there in the late 17th century, (fig. 23). Several of the workshops were located in association with a demolished ecclesiastical institution where the immediate area had apparently been assigned to workshops carrying out hazardous activities using fire, such as potteries and bell-casters. Finally, research results obtained over several years are presented and there is a discussion of the possibility of more detailed examination and recording to demonstrate the regionality of the individual stove-tile types and perhaps locate individual workshops. More recent scientific methods for the identification of clay types might make it possible to determine their provenance, which would be of crucial importance. Formal collaboration with countries south of and around the Baltic would probably be able to demonstrate trade routes and cultural links and the origin and distribution of stove tiles and matrixes. Closer collaboration between scientists, historians and archaeologists is strongly recommended.

Ole Kristiansen









Kristiansen, O. (2008). Kakkelproduktion i Danmarks middelalder og renæssance. Kuml, 57(57), 245–285. https://doi.org/10.7146/kuml.v57i57.24669