Life of the City

Odense in the medieval and Renaissance - an exhibition on Odense's 'golden age'.

'Life of the City - Odense in the medieval and Renaissance deals with the 'golden age' of Odense's history. Here the history of Odense is presented, from its beginnings in the late 10th century until 1660. This was a period when Odense developed into a prosperous city that was a portal to Europe.

Odense acted as a magnet on people; the city offered work, new communities and security. Odense grew, and its citizens benefited from this period of rising prosperity. All this came to a sudden end around 1660, however, not so much as a result of the recurring wars and the many diseases that afflicted Funen as the introduction of an absolutist monarchy. At the stroke of a pen, power shifted from the towns with royal trading charters to the capital, Copenhagen. Odense's 'golden age' was a thing of the past.

But what sort of life did citizens live in Odense as a major city? The exhibition focuses on the human dramas and life as it was lived. Via a gallery of historical personages and narratives we gain insight into the lives of these former citizens.

Various communities and guilds flourished. Churches and monasteries established themselves in the centre of the city alongside trades and crafts. Around the 16th century, a new age dawned in Odense - that of the Renaissance. This period was a bridge between the Middle Ages and the modern age. Science, technology and discoveries became interesting. There was rapid technological development and people adapted. A clockmaker settled in Odense and made a beautifully decorated clock for the former monk Christian Poulsen, who quickly adapted to the new age. With the Reformation the monasteries were dissolved.

Photo: Kvorning Design & Kommunikation

Odense was now a commercial city where goods from all over the world ended up in the storehouses of the merchants. The merchants were among the most powerful in the city. A new feature of house interiors was movable furniture, and decorative knick-knacks also found their way into people's living rooms. It is also in this period that the nuclear family is 'invented'.

There are obvious differences between people. Prosperity is directly visible in housing. The merchants' town houses are several storeys high, standing out in the cityscape. Prosperity is also apparent in the amount of silver on the table and the clothes worn.

Life in the city was hard. The lives of the citizens were constantly under threat. Diseases such as bubonic plague and syphilis claimed many lives. Infant mortality was high; violence and homicide were much more common than today. The inhabitants had to put up with major disasters: war and epidemic illnesses that at one fell swoop could decimate the population. But this was a basic condition for the Odense-dwellers of the time. They lived with their fear and built a magnificent Odense, traces of which can be seen to this very day if you take a look round modern Odense.




Odense City Museums
Overgade 48
DK-5000 Odense C
Tel +45 6551 4601
CVR: 39156040
EAN: 5790002433825


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