August 21, 2009

Who owns the bones of Saint Canute?

Posted at 1:10 pm in Similar cases

Within Denmark, there is debate over who owns the bones of Saint Canute, although the discussion does not necessarily seem to extend to the actual location in which the remains are held in the way that pervades most restitution cases.

One should not forget that whilst Denmark has been very forward thinking about restitution cases with Greenland, Copenhagen’s National Museum continues to hold onto fragments from the Parthenon Sculptures.

Copenhagen Post

Who owns Canute’s bones?
Tuesday, 18 August 2009 11:33 News
Submitted by Baron Joost Dahlerup

Not long ago, Greece requested that the British Museum return artefacts to the Acropolis. Likewise, Iceland has requested the Icelandic Sagas be returned. It is becoming more common to ask for original works of art and cultural artefacts to be returned to their countries of origin, so they can be viewed and admired where they belong.

The question, ‘Who owns St Canute’s earthly remains?’ has previously been brought up here in Denmark. Is it the Bishop of Odense or the Church Ministry? Is it the National Museum, or are they a personal possession of the royal family? Who has the final say – the Church Ministry, the Culture Ministry, the National Museum, or the Queen?

Historically speaking, St Canute wasn’t buried in St Canute’s Church in Odense [where his remains lie today, ed], but in the former St Albani Church. His remains weren’t moved to the larger St Canute’s Church until later. But, as a saint, he was canonised a Catholic saint by the Pope, during the time Denmark was a Christian nation.

For that reason, the holy relic was under papal jurisdiction, and if you asked the Pope, he’d likely say they still are. According to the Odense bishop and the deanery, this, however, is an insult of the highest degree. They believe that the remains of St Canute and his brother should be removed from St Canute’s Church and buried there.

National Museum Director Per Kristian Madsen has now weighed in with the opinion that these curious Medieval remains should be kept together as they are now – not divvied up. That’s despite the fact that St Canute’s Church wasn’t even the final resting place for Canute the Holy. The former St Albani Church was. That church might not exist anymore, but the 1849 Constitution grants freedom of worship.

The Catholic Church was established with that freedom, with houses of worship in the capital and beyond. Denmark is a diocese answering directly to Rome. Danish Catholics, meanwhile, are just as Danish as anyone else in this country, possessing the same civil rights, voting rights and freedom of expression.

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