The Danian Limestone in historical perspective and the glacial landscape in eastern Sjælland

ols_strand1Excursion to Stevns and Faxe, 4th May 1996

Guides: Hans Jørgen Hansen, Kaj Strand Petersen og Mads Engberg Willumsen
Text: Kaj Strand Petersen, GEUS, Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland, Thoravej 8, 2400 Copenhagen NV
The first record of a day trip to the Cretaceous-Tertiary outcrops of the Stevns and Fakse was given by Henrik Steffens in his “Geognostistisch=geologische Aufsätse als Vorbereitung zu einer innern Naturgeschichte der Erde” in 1810.

“Seeland selbst besteht ohne allen Zweifel grösstentheils aus Kreidegebirge, obgleich das Gebirge fast überall von sehr mächtigen Laimenlagern bedeckt ist. Etwas enfernt von der Landstrasse zwischen Kopenhagen und Kiödge, etwas weniger als eine Meile von der letssten Stadt, geht die Kreide wieder zu Tage aus. Jenseit Kiöge, 4 bis 5 Meilen gegen Südsüdost, ist der bekannte Stevens=Klint, eine senkrechte Felsenwand, von 100-120 Fuss Höhe gegen die Ostsee. Dieser senkrechte Abfall zieht sich gegen Süden über eine Meile weit fort, und versteckt sich derauf unter das aufgeschwemmte Gebirge. Der höchste Punkt des Kreidegebirges ist 3 Meilen westlich von Stevensklint, eine Meile vom Meeresufer bei Faxöe.”

Steffens must have been on such a trip during his stay in Copenhagen in 1802-1803 when he gave his famous lectures at Ehlers Collegium. Because in 1804 he took up his professorship in Halle and stayed in Germany as professor later at Breslau and Berlin, where he died in 1845. It is worth nothing that Steffens mentioned outcrops of Limestone (Kreidegebirge) around one mile north of Køge which must be the Karlstrup locality we are passing on the way out to the south of Copenhagen. Steffens wrote that Sjælland most probably consists of Limestone although at the most covered by Laimenlagern (clay) which today would mean till. But in those days no such concept as glacial deposits was known and Steffens explains these deposits in the way of great water masses breaking out from the Baltic. It should be emphasized that also his successor in Denmark, Forchhammer, was very far from the glacial concept, which was only generally accepted as late as the later half of the last century. What is seen the most on our trip down south to Stevns and Faxe is glacial deposits. Therefor our latest map sheet in scale of 1:200.000 is the cover of the guide. From this map it appears that Sjælland – as the rest of Denmark – is a very low-lying country so one has to focus on changes in the horizontal plane and here the geological map of the Quaternary deposits is the very best. The highway will take us down to Køge passing through a tillplain left by the ice in the latest part of the Weichselian glaciation coming from the Baltic, where the outcrop at Karlstrup of the Danian Limestone (ZK) is the only Pre-Quaternary deposit to be found. The whole area is densely populated and has been so far back in history, so we will focus also on the historical monuments as castles and churches. South of Køge the minor roads will be followed and there will be the opportunity to take a closer look on the historical monuments connected with this long history of human population.
ols_strand2First the church of Strøby will be passed revealing a typical Danish parish church from the 12. century where limestone?s from Stevns have been used.
The Danish writer Martin A. Hansen was born in this village. He has given so much to our knowledge on the old way of living and thinking in the Nordic countries. Both in a book as “Orm og Tyr” (not translated) and the novel “Løgneren” (le Menteur). The latter where the events take place at Stevns is in this way actual for our trip. However, he might be to much of a Nordic author to reach the people of the other countries, but we will return to some of his points of view later on the trip.








ols_strand3On our way from Køge to Strøby we have been driving along the Tryggevælde Å where the main part of Stevns is dominated by clayey till although only as a thin cover on the limestone to be seen at Stevns Klint. The many quarries situated at Stevns Klint in the Middle Age also furnished the castles with building stone as seen in the case of Gjorslev which was build in 1400 and constitutes the greatest limestone edifice in Denmark.










At Holtug church we will have a closer look at a runic inscription saying “Tirad wrote” made on a limestone now placed in the wall of the church. From these few words Martin A. Hansen were inspired to write his short story on the person Tirad who were captured by the Wend in the thirteenth century when this part of Sjælland were ravaged by these peoples.

The excursion will now go to the coastal cliff of Stevns Klint as seen on the map with White chalk (SK) overlain by Danian Limestone (GK), followed by the inland quarry at Faxe.
Glacial stria at Faxe, Stevns Klint and in the neighbourhood of Køge (Karlstrup) were graven on the hard Danian Limestone. Most of these stria run in direction from SE or SSE, although here and there ones are found running NE. These stria reveal the directions of the latest ice movements during the Weichselian in the timespan 20.000 – 14.000 BP. Such ice-movements are also recorded from the nearby locality Strandegårds Dyrehave, where marine Eemian deposits have been dislocated by the ice, revealing the same set of disturbances as found along with the striations at Faxe. Although the Eemian strata are dislocated they should not be regarded as floes in the glacial drift. Therefore the area during the Eemian might have featured the white cliff of Stevns and the Coral Limestone at Faxe.


After the visits to Stevns and Faxe the lunch will be taken at the Vallø Castle inn, which is reached by following the Tryggevælde Å down stream towards NNE. During the Stone Age the valley of Tryggevælde Å was a fjord, 12.5 km inland. The Vally manor – house is mentioned as far back in time as the 14. century under the reign of Christoffer II (1320-26 and 1330-32). However, the building dates back only to 1586, according to the inscription over the gateway:

“Tette store Huss med thisse tow store Torne her paa Waløe oc haffver iej aff Gudts Nade Gud were therfor loffvit y Evighed fangitt thed Wnder Sper och Tag 1586” We might have the time to take a walk around the manor-house in the park before the bus will take us on a ride through the landscape where the trees are burst into leaf. Following the smaller roads we will become acquainted with the Danish country side, the so-called hummocky moraine landscape which consists of a large number of small hills and bog holes, laying quite irregularly as regards each other. This is also seen on the geological map on the cover.






We are heading north towards the old classical site of Lejre. Much of the oldest history belong to the time of the sagas and has in this way been an inspiration through time in the minds of many authors. Martin A. Hansen lived the last part of his life in Allerslev and his grave is on the churchyard of Allerslev. This church is in its oldest part as many of the Danish churches build in romanesque stile using in parts greensand-limestone taken from the Lellinge quarry far to the south at Køge Å.

Martin A. Hansen wrote about the Allerslev church (translated): “The oldest part of the church in romanesque stile is nave and choir as in many other places without apse. The old church at Allerslev is erected of greensand-limestone, a rare material otherwise only used in the Bull-church at Ejby by Lellinge ridge, from the quarries by the brook the stone is taken, it has a mildew light, cool soft hue. Although Allerslev is so close to large calcareous tuff pits, from where stones to many of the churches in the area has been taken one might think it is very old. To the parish the old holly place Lejre belong, but the church is gingerly built some way from this.”






We will have a look over the old Lejre place with well preserved old farmhouses and the fild-stone erected in form of a ship dating back to the Iron Age? What is no longer to be seen is the old Køkkenmøddinger farther to the north along Lejre Å which in the Stone Age was a fjord with marine molluscs as the oyster. Taking such old coastbound dwelling places into account we are here looking at a place with human activities going on since the Atlantic viz. during the last 6000 – 7000 years.

If time allow us the last visit of the day will be the Viking museum at Roskilde where ships found in the Roskilde Fjord are to be seen. The fame of the Vikings has lately been sustained by the fact that the American soft shell clam was transferred by man to Europe long before the time of Columbus and surely the Vikings which have been living in Greenland close to America since 1000 are the best candidates.

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