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Absalon (c. 1128 – 21 March 1201) was a Danish archbishop and statesman, who was the Bishop of Roskilde from 1158 to 1192 and Archbishop of Lund from 1178 until his death. He was the foremost politician and churchfather of Denmark in the second half of the 12th century, and was the closest advisor of King Valdemar I of Denmark. He was a key figure in the Danish policies of territorial expansion in the Baltic Sea, Europeanization in close relationship with the Holy See, and reform in the relation between the Church and the public. He combined the ideals of Gregorian Reform ideals with loyal support of a strong Monarchical power.

Absalon was born into the powerful Hvide clan, and owned great land possessions. He endowed several church institutions, most prominently his family's Sorø Abbey. He was granted lands by the crown, and built the first fortification of the city that evolved into modern-day Copenhagen. His titles were passed on to his nephews Anders Sunesen and Peder Sunesen. He died in 1201, and was interred at Sorø Abbey.


Early life

Absalon was born around 1128. Due to a name which is unusual in Denmark, it is speculated that he was christened on the Danish "Absalon" name day, October 30.[1] He was the son of Asser Rig, a magnate of the Hvide clan from Fjenneslev on Zealand.[2] He was also a kinsman of Archbishop Eskil of Lund.[1] He grew up at the castle of his father, and was brought up alongside his older brother Esbern Snare and the young prince Valdemar, who later became King Valdemar I of Denmark.[3] During the civil war following the death of Eric III of Denmark in 1146, Absalon travelled abroad to study theology in Paris, while Esbern fought for Valdemar's ascension to the throne. At Paris, he was influenced by the Gregorian Reform ideals of churchly independence from Monarchical rule.[4] He also befriended the canon William of Æbelholt at the Abbey of St Genevieve, whom he later made abbott of Eskilsø Abbey.[1]

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